BENTIU, SOUTH SUDAN
— Like most South Sudanese towns, there's no such thing as a garbage truck in Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, to collect trash from the streets or in front of people's homes.
Nor is there a landfill or a town dump where residents can safely dispose of their trash, which builds up in the streets and becomes a fire hazard and a breeding ground for disease.
So, last week, the state Executive Director for General Health and Sanitation, Bilal Koang Malual, ordered residents of the state's nine counties to clean up their neighborhoods.
“Every citizen shall... go ahead with general cleanliness within his compound and outside, and this message goes to all traders in the town, to make sure to collect their waste properly and gather in one point for easy collection," Malual said.
"Failure to do so will lead to punishment,” he added, without going into detail.
His call, or perhaps the threat of punishment, saw the townspeople of Bentiu turn out in force last week, picking up piles of trash from the streets, and removing rubbish from their homes as part of the clean-up.
Once the citizens are done with their part of the clean-up, a private company that has been hired by the authorities will collect the rubbish and take it to a location outside of town, where it will be dumped.
The Director General at the state Ministry of Health, Santino John Tabang, urged residents of Unity state to keep their towns clean, even after the clean-up.
"...If we don’t care about [cleanliness], if we don’t protect our environment...then we ourselves are going to be affected by the negative effects," he said.
It is not uncommon to see smoke billowing into the sky around Bentiu town as people burn rubbish in their homes and on the streets.
But state officials are hopeful that the smelly, unhealthy phenomenon will become a thing of the past as residents across Unity State follow the example set by the townspeople of Bentiu, and clean up their neighborhoods.