Rising black tide of oil contamination in South Sudan
Residents report spates of deformed children, birth complications and sexual dysfunctions
First-hand confirmation by victims of scientific investigations and analyses
Desperate appeals by residents
by Joseph Oduha
“Most births nowadays yield deformed infants. The births themselves are complicated and painful. We men are becoming sexually dysfunctional. This is all due to the contamination of our water by oil wastes,” testifies Nyuot Gatwich.
He adds: “I call upon President Salva Kiir to come to us and see what life is like for us these days. He should come, because if he did, we would finally get some relief and assistance.”
Nyuot is 24 years old and is from the town of Bentiu, which is located in the vicinity of South Sudan’s largest oil fields.
As are Rumbek Panrieng, Paloich and many other oil-side communities, in which victims have been also appealing to the South Sudanese government and the world to help them deal with a range of horrific ailments, including neurodegeneration, skin rashes, chronic swelling of limbs and abdomens, gastrointestinal malfunctions and many more.
The photographs taken of the victims – and especially of their deformed infants – have shocked and moved the world.
One of the “smoking guns” establishing the connection between the poisons-laden “produced water” spilled by such profits-blinded oil companies as Malaysia’s Petronas, China National Petroleum and India’s ONGC Videsh into local aquifers and on surrounding land and the presence of such health-destroying substances as lead and barium was delivered by the study released in December 2016 by a team of scientists by Berlin’s Professor Fritz Pragst, one of the world’s leading forensic toxicologists.
It found that “the concentrations of lead in hairs of residents in South Sudan were, in some cases “among the highest that the world,” reports Professor Pragst, who adds: “while further tests – of resident blood- would be required to ascertain actual damaging of health – the direct and immediate endangerment of lead poisoning for human beings and animals is extremely well and unequivocally documented.”
The question arises: how many South Sudanese have already been affected by this “black tide” of oil contamination, which includes oil spilling from malfunctioning and derelict facilities and pipelines, and abandoned stockpiles of noxious chemicals.
“600,000” was the number delivered in a report issued in April 2018 by Sign of Hope, the Germany-based NGO that has been spearheading since 2007 a campaign for the investigation and remediation of this black tide.
This number is set to inevitably rise, points out Dr. Bior K. Bior of the Juba-based Nile Institute for Environmental Health.
“Human beings and animals continue to drink from the contaminated water sources, which are still also being used to irrigate their farmland. They too are thus bearing a high risk of contamination,” says Bior.
His words are echoed by Dr. James Okuk, the Juba-based analyst.
“Pollution is displacing people. It is creating havoc. It is making our people really suffer. All this means that oil contamination constitutes a violation of human rights. Both the South Sudanese government and the oil companies share the responsibility for this matter,” Okuk states.
“The communities affected by the pollution desperately need support, but our government is responding to their pleas with silence,” he says, adding: “It is time for the government to declare a humanitarian crisis, and act accordingly.”
Nyuot concludes his testimony with the following heartfelt words: “We appeal to the international community and aid agencies to assist us in addressing this humanitarian crisis and in preventing its getting. This crisis is certainly beyond our means to address alone,” he winds up.