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Water Accessibility in South Sudan

Water Accessibility in South Sudan


The republic of South Sudan is the youngest country in the world. The country has faced many challenges since it gained independence from the republic of Sudan. The tribal and civil wars that arose soon after the country’s independence have worsened the health status of the country, which had already been afflicted by adverse climatic changes. One of the major concerns about climatic changes or disasters related to weather are of major concern in South Sudan. The climatic changes have compromised the country’s ability to sustain the provision of adequate supply for clean and safe water to its residents. The unreliable supply of safe water to the residents of south Sudan has imposed a threat to health and sanitation, and there is an urgent need for interventions in order to secure the health of the people. This paper will discuss the environmental risks related to water in South Sudan, the plans underway to address it and the further steps that should be taken to contain it.

Climate change is South Sudan has been identified as an important threat to the South Sudan development. The Sudan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment found that the weather conditions would deteriorate is future, and that the young country does not have efficient systems in place to counter its negative effects. Water scarcity is one of the problems that is expected to increase with the current climatic trend. The other problems expected to rise include risk for disease and pest outbreaks, health related illnesses, damages from floods and droughts, decreased crop production, soil erosion, and desertification (United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], 2011).

The government of South Sudan is comprised of the boma, payam, county, state and national levels of administration. The national and state levels have the ministries of water resources and irrigation. The governments manage various sectors such as mining, water, wildlife, forestry, fisheries, animal resources, and agriculture. Other ministries play an important role in delivering effective management for the environment and natural resources and they include those dealing with road infrastructure, physical planning, rural development, and finance. South Sudan has developed the Environment Cluster and the Natural Resources Management Groups. The Natural Resource Management Group has the responsibility of ensuring an integrated and holistic management of the natural resources in the country. The Environment Cluster group has the responsibility of working with the Ministry of Environment in addressing and identifying the country’s environmental issues.

The government of South Sudan renewed and replaced the legislation and policies from the Government of Sudan to form the Interim Constitution of South Sudan. Most are in the draft phase requiring only the final approval and consultation. Drafts are generally confidential both at the national and state levels. The South Sudan Development Plan (SSDP) is the Main document that guides the country’s development. The government of the country has a goal of reducing dependence on oil while improving the state of tax administration, basic infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, rule of law, security, and peace. The SSDP has four “pillars” including those of conflict resolution and security, social and human development, economic development, and governance. The “pillars” define cross cutting issues as human rights, youth, HIV and AIDS, gender, environment, capacity development, and anti-corruption.

South Sudan has drafted the Environment Protection Bill and the Environmental policy to provide a framework for sustainable development. The setup is geared to provide grounds for investing heavily on development, to address the challenges of environmental management, and to provide adequate institutional capacity and funding for environmental protection. Other goals include harmonizing the legal frameworks for environmental management, to devolve and decentralize environmental management to low government levels, to reduce pollution while increasing sanitation, and to improve the availability of information through research.

The Environment Protection Bill of 2010 elaborated the required arrangements for the environmental bill protection. The bill involved multiple facets. The National Environmental Authority was established under the bill. The bill facilitates mainstreaming and integration of the environmental policy throughout ministries and lower level governments through the Local Environmental Committees, State Environmental Committees and Environmental Liaison Units. The 5-yearly Environmental Action Plan is also enabled under the bill. Other provisions of the bill include the environmental monitoring and audits monitoring, Planning for land use, and protecting the ozone layer, national heritage, rangelands, forests, biodiversity, rivers, lakes and wetlands.

South Sudan is supplied by three main rivers namely the Nile, Ghasal and Sobat. The Nile is the largest and permanent, and therefore most reliable. South Sudan plans to develop the Jonglei Canal to increase water supply for irrigation and hydropower. The plan may however have negative effects on climate since it will reduce the water of the river, which evaporated to moisturize air and rainfall in the region. Furthermore, wildlife and livestock will be affected from the reduction of the water (UNDP, 2011). South Sudan expects further water shortage from the rivers that are drying up. The last two decades for South Sudan have exhibited the transformation of permanent rivers to seasonal rivers. The rivers drying up include the Peyia, Gal, Jur, Lol and Kir rivers.

Climate change (higher evaporation and low rainfall, along with land use (siltation and accelerated erosion, forest clearing, forest fires and overgrazing) have contributed to the drying up of the rivers. The water table has dropped due to the siltation and congestion of riverbeds and irrigation channels. Trees have died is several areas and the swamp areas have decreases. The reduction of the volume of the river water has had far-reaching consequences on the people of South Sudan. At the onset of rains, the water quality changes drastically. The only fish that survive in seasonal rivers are of a limited quantity and variety. The size of the surviving fish has also decreased, and these factors have led to a reduction in food supply. The concentration of people and increased industrialization, toxic products and chemicals have led to water pollution (UNDP, 2011).

The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently addressing the need to promote the provision of health care to the residents of south Sudan. The country has especially attracted the attention of The WHO due to the country’s large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). The situation of the IDPs is worsened with the reduction of food supply, social amenities, shelter, and access to enough and safe water. The World Health Organization (2015) states that the vulnerability of the IDPS implies the need to improve access to health services, water, hygiene and sanitation. The WHO along with health cluster stakeholders are now moving to promote the development of access to clean water and sanitation. Health cluster partners have carried out vaccinations with more than 37 000 IDPs with the support of the WHO.

Unclean water in South Sudan has posed the threat for Cholera outbreak, which has prompted the WHO to intervene by mobilizing the United nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) to meet the current pressing needs (WHO, 2015). It is important to address the water inadequacy as a disaster in South Sudan. Disasters associated with water, just as any other disasters can cause various health defects even after they have passed. The psychiatric and psychological effects of disasters need appropriate attention to improve the health of the residents. Griensven et al. (2006) conducted a research and found that most people who experience disasters show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) depression and anxiety. The symptoms increase after the disasters, and it is important to address the mental health needs of the Southern Sudan residents who have been affected by the water inadequacy in one way or the other.

The natural disasters in South Sudan should not be misconstrued with communicable diseases in South Sudan. Most people mistakably assume that the dead bodies that result from the natural disasters with communicable diseases. The scarcity of water among other essential elements for a healthy lifestyle are mainly associated with the displacement of people, which leads to the deterioration of health among the people. The affected populations are exposed to the risk of outbreaks since the spread of communicable diseases is encouraged by a decrease in the provision of quality and accessible health care, bad underlying population health status, increased and increasing population crowding, and the lack of water and sanitation (Watson, Gayer, & Connolly, 2007).

Various human and natural events have led to weather changes in South Sudan. South Sudan faces major disasters related to weather-related events, heatwaves, storms, and floods. The foremost international database for disasters recorded 6,457 such events related to weather. Worldwide, 30,000 lives per annum were lost in weather related disasters with 4.1 billion people being left in need of emergency care and homeless (The Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters, 2015). Climatic changes affect the various aspects of human health directly through the climatic variables, including temperature and rainfall, which leads to changes in air and water quality, storms, droughts, cold, and extreme heat. The adverse climate changes often lead to significant morbidity and mortality.

Climate change can as well affect human life indirectly. The changes in climate can proactively foster the development of human diseases and other human life affecting landscapes. The early impacts of climate change on health. The government of South Sudan should focus on the focus on the current threats of climate change as well as those of the future. Missing the criteria of logistic constraints, public health threats, the transmission cycle knowledge, and climate sensitivity would incapacitate the efforts of South Sudan to counter fully the disasters related to access to safe and enough water. The request by member states to the WHO to intervene in health disaster management should be seriously considered. There is an urgent need to survey and prepare for the changes in climate that would increase water related disasters in South Sudan (Hambling, Weinstein, & Slaney, 2011).

The technologies and management of the sanitation services along with drinking-water supply is necessary for the community to lead optimally healthy lives. For the government of South Sudan achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it has to create more technologies resilient to a change of the climate. Climate change is the main cause to the threat of lack of accessibility to clean and safe water for South Sudan (Howard et al. 2030). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2014) states that more people have gained access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2 billion and 1.8 billion respectively since 1990. The CDC however also states that most countries in the developing world, including South Sudan, still lack access to safe water and sanitation.


The changing climatic conditions of South Sudan has posed a major risk to the availability of safe and adequate supply of water to its residents. The country has faced civil challenges since it gained independence, which have exacerbated the effects of climatic change on safe water availability. The country is getting stable with important amendments being made to its policies and legislation to ensure an adequate and safe water supply to the residents. However, the efforts that the country has made are not enough to curb the ever-worsening health determinants and risks to the people, including access to safe and adequate water supplies. The WHO and other stakeholders have stepped in to promote the supply of water and sanitation services. Addressing the disasters and health risks related to water is a complex process that involves individuals, regions, governments and international organizations.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2014). The safe water system. Retrieved from < http://www.cdc.gov/safewater/>.

Hambling T, Weinstein P, Slaney D., (2014). A review of frameworks for developing environmental health indicators for climate change and health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 8(7):2854-2875.

Howard, G., Charles, K., Pond, K., Brookshaw, A., Hossain, R., & Bartram, J. (2010). Securing 2020 vision for 2030: climate change and ensuring resilience in water and sanitation services. Journal of water and climate change.

Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters, (2015). Reliefweb. Retrieved from <http://reliefweb.int/report/world/human-cost-weather-related-disasters-1995-2015>.

United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], (2011). Environmental impacts risks and opportunities assessment.

Van Griensven, F., M. Chakkraband, W. & Thienkrua, (2006). Mental Health Problems among Adults in Tsunami-Affected Areas in Southern Thailand. JAMA 296 (5): 537-548.

Watson, J. T., Gayer, M., & Connolly, M. A. (2007). Epidemics after natural disasters. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 1(1).

World Health Organization, (2015). WHO providing emergency life-saving health services to internally displaced persons in South Sudan. Retrieved from <http://www.afro.who.int/en/ssd/news/item/7935-who-providing-emergency-life-saving-health-services-in-south-sudan.html>.