JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — Patients, including premature babies, have died in South Sudan's main public hospital because it cannot afford fuel to run its generators, an official said Friday.
Around 10 patients died since early December because they could not be operated on without electricity, including premature babies who needed oxygen provided through electricity-powered cylinders, according to a hospital official who insisted anonymity for fear of reprisal from the government.
Patients in need of surgery are waiting in the wards, including a woman who has required an amputation for over a month. Emergency cases are now sent to a military hospital which has fuel, the official said.
Yantrude Marco, who requires surgery on her burned and broken leg, said she has been waiting six days for further treatment but cannot afford another clinic. With surgery she could be discharged in one to two weeks, but without it will take her 6-8 weeks to heal enough to be released, doctors told her.
"I don't have money," Marco said. "I'll stay until I'm discharged." State-supplied power in war-ravaged South Sudanis unreliable or lacking. Less than 1 percent of the population is on the power grid, according to the world Bank report in 2013.
The Director General of Juba Teaching Hospital, Dr. John Chol, told The Associated Press the facility has put most surgical operations on hold after the national currency devalued sharply, raising the cost of fuel last month to 4,400 South Sudanese pounds ($220) from 1,200 South Sudanese pounds (worth $220 at the time) per 200-250 liter drum.
"At the beginning we used to tell the patients to buy the fuel but that turned to be very costly and normal people cannot afford, so most of our activities have stopped," the first hospital official said.
Since Christmas Eve, the hospital's maternity and prenatal wards and some other services resumed operations after South Sudan's President Salva Kiir donated fuel which will last those wards one month, Dr. Chol said.
South Sudan's state oil company raised fuel prices after the country's central bank on Dec. 15 removed a fixed exchange rate, allowing market forces to determine the pound's value against the dollar, in a bid to control inflation.
The floating of the currency resulted in the devaluation by over 80 percent.
South Sudan's oil output, the main source of government revenue, declined by nearly half due to the country's two-year civil war amid plummeting global crude prices, Kiir said in a speech last month.
A peace deal was signed in August to end two years of war which the United Nations said has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced over 2 million.