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Experts urge South Sudan to embrace sustainable water development approach

Experts on Tuesday urged the South Sudan government to reduce over reliance on humanitarian support for it’s water, sanitation and hygiene sector (WASH), if it’s to improve access to clean water for it’s estimated 12.4 million population by 2030.

Michael Okuny, the Senior Financial Management Specialist for the World Bank in South Sudan, said that the youngest nation needs a well-suited response plan which provides for longer- term and cost-effective solution to persistent water challenges.

Okuny said that South Sudan needs to embark on the gradual transition from the current dependence on humanitarian support for water management toward the longer- term government led sustainable development approach, which entails increasing budgetary allocation to the WASH sector.

 “The humanitarian and emergency responses such as rehabilitation and provision of rural water points are crucial to respond to the urgent challenges and immediate needs, however, they are not well-suited to provide longer- term and cost-effective solution to persistent water challenges,” Okuny said in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

He was speaking during the three-day conference organized by the South Sudan Ministry of Water and Irrigation that opened on Tuesday and will close on Thursday.

The conference attended by the World Bank, UN agencies and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Kingdom of Netherlands, is being held under the theme: “Transitioning from humanitarian to sustainable development in the WASH sector”. 

Ismail Kamil, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Deputy Country Representative for South Sudan, called for concerted efforts from donors, partners and all levels of government, communities and private sector to improve the WASH sector.

“If we are to achieve Sustainable Development Goal for water and sanitation, we must ensure sustainable development for water of which ownership by the government and communities is central,” he said.

Bonguot Amum, the Chairperson of the Specialized Parliamentary Committee for Water Resources and Irrigation, said that they plan to advocate for construction of public facilities like latrines along roads, in schools and markets in a bid to improve WASH sector in the country.

  “Our main objective is to strengthen collaboration and accelerate progress towards achieving universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene, of course we need to do awareness for behavioral changes so that by 2030 we can improve basic hygiene,” Amum said.

“We envision the future where every South Sudanese citizen has access to clean and safe water, where proper sanitation facilities are readily available and where hygiene practices are integrated in our daily lives,” she added.

The Minister for Water Resources and Irrigation, Pal Mai Deng said that the country faces serious water challenges ranging from inadequate water infrastructure, conflict and security, climate change and limited funding.

“Currently South Sudan’s water challenges are limited access to safe clean drinking water, inadequate water infrastructure, conflict and security, climate change, poor sanitation and hygiene practices and limited funding and lack of political will and commitment from the government,” Deng said

He said that poor coordination among the WASH sectors coupled with limited institutional capacity and water catchment degradation are affecting the water and sanitation situation in the country.

“WASH sector situation in South Sudan has been affected by decades of war, leading to destruction and neglect of water, and the four years of flash flooding and torrential rains have deteriorated the situation and quality of living,” Deng said.

He disclosed that the 2012 water assessment report found that only 30 percent of the population had access to clean drinking water, prior to outbreak of the December 2013 war.

Deng also noted that the last WASH report conducted in 2012, revealed that over 60 percent of South Sudan’s population had no access to safe and clean drinking water, with over 7 percent of the population still practicing open defecation.

He revealed that South Sudan ranks globally among countries with the worst indicators in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector.

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