Waste management is a key area in the pursuit of a clean and Sustainable environment in any country. It is the cornerstone of development, because wherever there are human beings, they shall generate waste, either by their daily survival and thus giving off daily domestic or municipal waste, or through the industrial processes such as mining that generates toxic and hazardous waste that require specialized waste management systems. Or through the health care system that generates infectious and potentially hazardous waste.
The production and processing of almost any material generates by-products (which may or may not be useful) and releases them to into the air and water. Manufacturing, mining, oil and gas drilling, chemical processing, and coal-burning power plants produce many ton of waste each years. Generation of radioactive and hazardous wastes has grown as society has advanced technologically. Even agriculture generates about a billion tons of waste annually, primarily crop residuals. Finally, residential and commercial generation of municipal solid waste (garbage).
Contamination of the air, water, and soil with hazardous wastes can frequently lead to serious health problems as well as degenerative diseases, mental retardation, birth defects, and chromosomal changes, can be linked to public exposure to hazardous waste and it has been seen in party of South Sudan (Upper Nile Region). While most scientists agree that exposure to high levels of hazardous waste is dangerous, there is less agreement on the danger of exposure to low levels.
Most waste in South Sudan are dumped in landfills, stored on-site, burned, or discharged to surface waters with no treatment. The source reduction is the preferred method for waste management. This is an activity that prevents the generation of waste initially, for example, a change in operating practices or raw materials. The second choice is recycling, followed by energy recovery. If none of these methods is feasible, then treatment prior to disposal is recommended.
This is more so in these times when we have the COVID 19 pandemic, with South Sudan so far having 90 cases. These are patients whose waste is of utmost importance in how it’s handled, let it leads to further infections for those who come into contact with it, in the process of waste collection, transportation and disposal. The need for a working health waste management, has never been as urgent as now.
And as the Revitalize Transitional Government of National Unity ( RTGoNU) comes into power, this is one area that requires urgent and immediate attention. The focus for the governors and cabinet ministers might be political seats and which party gets what percentage of shares, but for the South Sudanese resident, needs such as food security, peace and stability, and waste management are immediate and that they would want focused on.
Though the focus has been on Juba, the other states are also in need of the government’s attention when it comes to waste management. The following are some of the things the incoming governors can pay attention to when it comes to waste management at states level.
The government should conduct a country wide survey so as to establish an analysis of the situation on the ground concerning health waste management in the 10 states and 3 administrative areas under President Kiir’s watch. This will come in handy in developing national guidelines and structures to handle waste management. It will inform the government of the kind of waste being generated, the quantity, the location, and what type of systems to put in place.
This situational analysis shall thus be followed by the development of National Waste Management Guidelines. These guidelines shall provide guidance on how South Sudan shall handle their health care waste, the structure of the body to be constituted to head Waste Management in the country. It shall also provide how the policies concerning waste management shall be implemented. And on top of that, it shall be the blueprint for the country’s investors in the waste sector.
Given that health care waste management involves waste that can be infectious or hazardous, it requires the health care workers to also be trained on how they shall handle it. Community sensitization is also an important aspect that can’t be overlooked. This will be necessary as the health care workers are the first point of contact with the waste. The community needs sensitization so as to avoid mixing of the various types of waste due to ignorance or laxity of the municipal waste handlers.
After the government has data on the quantity of health waste being generated, how it’s distributed countrywide, it shall need to come up with structures of health care waste management. How the waste shall be transported, collected and dealt with. It shall also appoint the people to deal with the waste. They shall require fully functioning departments that are well funded, with qualified health waste management experts being employed. And should the government decide to sub-contract these services to outside investors or firms, it shall also be clear how this shall be done. The standards expected of the waste handlers and the timelines for them to deliver the agreed upon services.
Health care waste cannot be ignored. This is because of the negative effects of it being neglected by the previous governments maybe because the long conflicts leading to spread of diseases due to the mishandling of health waste. It is an urgent matter that needs to be paid attention to.