Conflict over fuel mixes with hyperinflation to see hospitals and other essential infrastructure has been hamstrung in South Sudan.
Crowds scrambling for fuel in oil station in South Sudan
By Ayuen Akuot Atem- JUBA, South Sudan
Another widespread fuel shortage has hit South Sudan’s capital, Juba rendering institutions ineffective amid hyperinflation after the country’s central bank devalued the currency by about 84 percent in addition to dollar scarcity.
Fuel suppliers blame the shortage on a scarcity of foreign money especially US Dollar. They say the lack of dollars is making it hard to import fuel from neighbouring countries.
Some areas of life hit especially hard are healthcare and public transport.
A visit by Africa press to Juba Teaching Hospital revealed that the main health facility in the country struggled through since February and March, scaling down operations after it could not acquire enough fuel to run its single generator.
Hospital director, Dr. John Chol said for over 10 months of since last year up to now, the hospital was not supplied with fuel from its Health Ministry budget and could only operate with support from health partners until now when things “fell apart”.
Departments including the mortuary, children’s ward and the theatre had to be closed, Dr. Chol said, adding: “As a matter of fact, we had to scale down the electricity usage to the specific wards including the maternity and emergency wards to handle emergency issues like delivery and accidents.”
Limited fuel supply to South Sudan has been persistent following the political crisis which erupted in mid-December 2013, affecting its hard currency acquisition.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest crude oil producer, the country saw its output slashed by a third after Unity State oil fields in the north were closed in 2014. Production is on only at Paloch Units in the Upper Nile region where about 165,000 barrels are produced per day.
Devaluation of the local currency led to hyperinflation of 202.5 percent last week, the country’s National Bureau of Statistics said, with fuel prices in pump stations increasing to 22 SSP, up from the previous subsidize price of 6SSP per Litres.
As a leadership system arrived at in August 2015 and which will incorporate both the government of President Salva Kiir and rebels of Riek Machar in a three-year transitional arrangement takes shape, the state is struggling to meet its needs, including fuel requirements.
With some petroleum stations severely overcrowded and others shut down, a sense of mistrust is cropping up between fuel suppliers and buyers.
Motorists and motorcyclists locally known as boda-boda at Trojan Petrol Station have parked their vehicles and motorbikes. Station manager Siadi Hassan says they refuse to leave. “They think we’ve kept the fuel to sell it to black-market dealers… We try to convince the motorists to go away but they don’t want to leave. They said that they are going to sleep here.”
The fuel shortage is caused by a scarcity of foreign dollars: “They should blame the government instead…the little that is imported by the state-owned oil company goes to the black market,” Hassan said.
He claims the government is not issuing them with the letter of credit required by traders to access U.S. dollars to import items.
However, Machar Achiek Ader, the country’s director of state-owned oil company NilePet, dismissed the claims, saying the government is not to be blame for the current situationof fuel crisis.
“The shortage of fuel is not a problem of South Sudan. It is a problem of East Africa. It is not our problem,” he told African press News Agency.
As Juba struggles to continue its basic activities, dozens and dozens of motorists spend hours waiting in line.
One motorist at a NilePet petrol station told Africa press that he spent the night in his car while waiting in a queue to fill petrol.
“I have been here for more than 14 hours and I don’t know if I will get the fuel at all,” he said.
Another motorist said he was in the queue for about nine hours and “only people with connections were being allowed to buy the fuel”.
Two decades of war and 2013’s political turmoil left the country in dire need of infrastructure and services. Many suburban neighbourhoods that do not have tap water now pay nearly $2.5 for 200 litres.
Sometimes compounds go for days without water because delivery trucks are unable to get enough fuel to make the journey.
The fuel industry blames the government for a failure to prioritize the supply of this indispensable product. In return, the government has launched a battle with suppliers over price controls but disobey by the water tankers drivers.
It has imposed a price limit on both diesel and petrol at about US$1.90 per liter. Petroleum companies say the latter is because stations will sell fuel at defeating price.
Due to the closure of the south-north border in 2012 when the two Sudans disagreed on wealth sharing, most of the companies now import fuel from neighbouring Kenya.
A worker at the Hass Petroleum Station told Africa press that they pay exaggerated prices for imported fuel because they face heavy and multiple taxation while importing.
Government official who requested anonymity stressed that as we are speaking since the beginning of April there is no fuel to run the government offices leaves alone transport.
“I have park my car because am not able to buy 1liter with 300SSP in the black market prices,” he added.
Although the young country produces crude oil, it lacks refinery facilities and thus relies on imports of fuel from neighbouring countries.