Dar es Salaam – Global Humanitarian Agency, Oxfam, said on Monday that cholera cases were rapidly increasing in Juba even as the cost of clean water skyrockets amid a worsening economic crisis.
Oxfam Country Director for South Sudan, Zlatko Gegic, told newsmen in Juba that already 33 deaths had been confirmed in Juba alone.
He said the dead included seven children below five years, with 700 more people infected with the deadly and contagious disease.
“Families are struggling as food prices and living expenses increase with many taking desperate measures such as drinking dirty water to survive.
“The high cost and scarcity of clean water puts people at much greater risk of deadly yet preventable diseases like cholera,” Gegic said.
According to the official, South Sudan’s deteriorating economic situation has hiked the cost of fuel and driven up production and distribution expenses, making clean water more expensive and inaccessible for many.
Most of Juba’s residents rely on private sector suppliers such as water trucks and bicycle vendors or town boreholes, while some collected water directly from the Nile.
“Although the government rightly caps the price of water, it remains out of reach for many. Families are telling us they now spend twice as much on water as they did just a few months ago.
“Those who cannot afford it have reduced their daily consumption to dangerous levels.
“Some have little choice but to rely on dirty water from the Nile for their survival, exposing them to serious risk of disease,” Gegic said.
Water companies in Juba currently produce and distribute less due to high fuel costs while bottled water vendors also sell less, meaning water supply is severely affected.
The government’s official declaration of the outbreak, coupled with its cooperation with NGOs to deliver humanitarian assistance, has helped contain the spread of the disease.
However, more needs to be done to save lives.
“We need to act now. We appeal to South Sudan’s leaders to prioritise investment in water and health infrastructure to prevent future outbreaks.
“The provision of public services should top the budgetary agenda. Donors should urgently fund life-saving activities such as chlorination for water trucks and rehabilitation of water systems,” Gegic said.
South Sudan’s economic crisis was a direct fall out of the war, increased military spending by government has meant little is left for essential services, including life-saving measures such as the provision water-treating chlorine.
“Oxfam strongly appeals to South Sudanese leaders to end the war and focus on delivery of essential services.
“Without peace, the economy will continue to deteriorate and clean water will remain out of reach for many,” Gegic added.
The agency has started promoting good hygiene practices such as hand washing and cleaning of water storage facilities, particularly in Protection of Civilian sites within a UN base.
In addition to cholera cases reported in Juba County, there have been at least 59 cases, including one death in Bor and its vicinity, (PANA/NAN)