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Juba’s deadly water

Francis Michael
Parasites, disease and even death are risks of drinking water from the Nile in South Sudan’s capital.
8.04.2016  |  Juba, South Sudan
A girl fills Nile water in a container in Juba, March 22, 2015. (photo: The Niles | Samir Bol)
A girl fills Nile water in a container in Juba, March 22, 2015. (photo: The Niles | Samir Bol)

There are two groups of people in Juba: those who can afford to buy bottled water and those who cannot pay six South Sudanese Pound (around US$ 1.50) per half-litre bottle. This second group therefore gets its water from the Nile, which is distributed to the population via water tankers.

Drinking, bathing and cooking with Nile water, however, poses many health risks including diarrhoea, Hepatitis A, Bilharzia and Cholera, according to Angelo Michael, a health officer specialised in preventive medicine.

“I use the Nile water transported by tankers although I know well it is completely contaminated,” says Lucia Gumaa, a Juba resident, “but I have no other choice”.


Human waste, pollution and acid rain

Nile water is dirty for several reasons: First, hotels along the banks of the Nile illegally dump waste into the river. Municipal authorities arrested a number of hoteliers for dumping waste at night, especially during times of heavy rainfall, according to Kalisto Tombe, head of the Public Health department in Juba. “Hotels hope that rain will wash the dumped waste far away from the source of contamination,” he says.

Secondly, even without human waste being dumped into it, the Nile has some of the most polluted water in the world, due to acid rain, which raises nitrogen levels, especially in the tropical regions characterised by abundant rainfall, said health officer Michael.

For Juba citizens, the consequences are often fatal. “The number of people with diseases caused by the use of contaminated water, including cholera, diarrhoea and other afflictions, is very high,” a source who wishes to remain anonymous says, adding: “The government has reservations about releasing the statistics about these cases, but they do exist.”

Up to 20 water-related cases are admitted into the hospital every day sources at the Juba Educational Hospital told The Niles.

Last year South Sudan witnessed yet another Cholera outbreak. World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines oblige countries to report the outbreak of the disease when 10 to 20 cholera cases occur. South Sudan’s government officially announced the outbreak of cholera in the country on June 23, 2015, following confirmed reports about 189 cholera cases and the death of 19 affected patients.

The deadly disease can be avoided if specific guidelines are followed. The most important of these is using pure and disinfected water for drinking, cooking and washing.

To this end, the Juba Municipality distributed chlorine disinfectant tablets to citizens and owners of water tankers, according to the Municipality’s Head of the Public Health Department, but he added that the difficulty in obtaining clean water in the city is due to poor planning and an inadequate public health budget.

This article is part of:
Water: A fool won’t even find water in the Nile!
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