National, News

Poor WASH costs millions, threatens dev’t

By Gladys Fred Kole


South Sudan’s poor Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) situation has a significant economic impact, costing the country an estimated $350 million annually according to a recent joint sector review.

This staggering amount represents a combined spending of households on treating diseases that could be prevented with proper WASH infrastructure and practices.

The sector review revealed that with an estimated country’s population of over 12 million people on average a household spends $ 700 on treatment every year for waterborne-related diseases like typhoid, diarrhoea, tapeworm, dysentery, and bilharzia.

This it noted with the lack of proper WASH infrastructure results in an estimated $350 million annual expenditure by households on treating the aforementioned waterborne diseases.

And stakeholders believe this money could be invested in other areas for economic growth and improved livelihoods.


Challenges and Solutions

South Sudan faces several WASH challenges, including limited access to clean water, inadequate infrastructure, conflict, climate change, and poor sanitation.

Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Hon. Pal Mai Deng in his remarks at the joint sector review workshop yesterday, emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach involving government initiatives, international aid, community engagement, and sustainable water management practices.

He disclosed that his ministry is developing a “Water Vision 2040” focused on infrastructure development, reliable water access, and open defecation-free communities.

“The water sector is one of the key vital sectors for sourcing economic transformation. The ministry is now in the process of developing its water vision 2040 to support and confirm the aspiration of the country’s overall vision of 2040.” Mai stated.

This vision according to him aims to improve water security and climate resilience throughout the country.


Need for Collaboration

South Sudan has one of the world’s worst WASH indicators, with over 60% lacking access to clean water and 70% practicing open defecation.

Bouwe-Jan Smeding, representing development partners at the workshop like the Netherlands, Germany, USAID, and JICA, urged collaboration to address these issues.

“After many years of humanitarian intervention focus on saving lives, it is now time to have a common intervention for WASH under which the efforts of partners are well coordinated by the government” Smeding urged.

He stressed the importance of revising the water policy, passing the water bill into law, and increasing WASH sector funding.

“The revision of the water policy which we understand is in progress and fast tracking the passage of the draft water bill into law are critical first steps. Equally important for the transitional government is developing mechanisms for increased funding to the WASH sector without which realizing the desire to transition will be difficult,” he noted.

Transition from Emergency to Development

Micheal Eriu Okuny, representing the World Bank, highlighted the need to shift from emergency water management to long-term development strategies.

He emphasized the importance of a holistic national water development strategy that involves all stakeholders.

“If water is to become an engine for recovery and development as opposed to a threat multiplier South Sudan must embark on a gradual transition from humanitarian modalities of water management towards a long-term government-led sustainable development approach,” Okuny underscored.

UNICEF Country Representative Hamida Laseko emphasized the necessity of collaboration between government, donors, communities, and private sectors to achieve sustainable WASH development.

“Challenges are enormous and we will not achieve our goals unless we all work together, donors, implementing partners, all levels of government, communities and private sectors,” she said.

Laseko stressed the need for government ownership and community participation to move beyond humanitarian challenges and focus on sustainable development.

“South Sudan has been limited to numerous humanitarian challenges and development has not always been the focus for the WASH sector. If we are to change the sustainable development goal for WASH we must change this, the game to ensure sustainable development for which ownership by the government communities is centered,” she noted.

This review underscores the urgent need for coordinated efforts to address WASH challenges in South Sudan.

By working together, the government, international partners, and communities can achieve sustainable access to clean water and sanitation, leading to a healthier society and a stronger economy.

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