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Health in Juba: Where Next?

By Tasile Isaac Peter, Juba

When entering Juba via the Nimule highway, you can’t fail to notice the rising smoke and horrible smell from the burning rubbish nearby. The smell makes you feel sick, and leaves you wandering what it’s like inside the city itself. Yet, inside it’s even worse. Everywhere are piles of poorly managed waste lying in the open, threatening lives through spread of disease. There are empty, non-biodegradable plastic bottles everywhere, posing another threat to the soil quality in South Sudan. Plastic bags everywhere, the market places are filled with flies and bad smells.

Almost 95% of the homes in Juba have poor sewage management systems with water left to flow in the open or be poured out on to the road. The question is, why are the people doing this? Is it because they don’t know the long term effects? Is the government to blame? We have hundreds of NGOs, how much effort have they put in place to ensure Juba is clean instead of sending a lot of people out in the field! The death rate in Juba is so high. The main hospital in Juba can’t even be called a hospital. There are multiple problems: shortage of doctors, shortage of drugs and very few nurses. The life span in South Sudan is much lower than other countries. People die from things that could have been easily prevented if we had a cleaner environment. Smoke causes lung related disease such as cancer and bacterial infection. This in turn causes an even wider range of diseases. The human lungs are designed to take oxygen into the body. If the air is contaminated then so too are the lungs affected. People with conditions such as asthma and pneumonia are greatly affected and their life span is reduced.

The major water source in Juba is the Nile, as few people are able to afford bottled purified water. The water itself is used for a lot of activities, yet it is not safe for drinking due to lack of purification and decontamination. The Nile water contains many living organisms, some of which are disease causing. Yet, is the Nile water treated for every household in Juba? We have typhoid, hepatitis and all kind of waterborne diseases deriving from the Nile water. Not everyone uses chlorine or boils water to make it safe for drinking. This leaves a large part of the city vulnerable to waterborne disease. How much effort has the government put in place to see that its citizens are free from these diseases?

Looking at the pregnancy rate in South Sudan, most of the girls aged between 15 and 20 are already married with children. It is unbelievable. Who should be blamed? Is it the civil war, government, private sector, parents or the girls themselves? With the limited access to health facilities, some of these girls face pregnancy related problems such as abortion, premature delivery, drug abuse, and violence from both sets of the parents. HIV/AIDS is at high rate in Juba. Most of the communities are unaware of the safest way to have sex or even to just have one sexual partner. They know HIV/AIDS, but do not know that they are targets due to their reckless behaviour of multiple sexual partners, unprotected sex and even transmission via some body fluid.

All these problems come down to the high level of illiteracy in the country. Illiteracy not only means inability to read and write, but also not knowing how to do things the right way to avoid future negative impact. If the people can be educated about their health alongside strong government regulations, then some of the problems would be reduced and the death rate cut. It seems to me South Sudan is too dependent on NGOs than its own government! People are tired of the government and want nothing to do with it. Corruption is at its peak, leaders are greedy, and senseless wars fought all the time.

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