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In South Sudan, Long Wait to Get a Passport

South Sudanese have to wait, often for months, to get their passport and nationality certificate. (Karin Zeitvogel/VOA)
In Northern Bahr el Ghazal, people have been turning out in droves to get a passport or identity papers, but they've been going home empty-handed.

That's because the recently opened passport office in the state capital, Aweil, which was supposed to speed up the delivery of ID cards and travel documents, has stopped issuing them.

The reason? Would-be passport holders need to show a birth certificate to get the cherished ID. The hospital that issues birth certificates says it has to get them from Juba, and officials in the national capital aren't sending them.

This has been going on for awhile, said Aweil Civil Hospital Director Garang Thomas.

“Unfortunately, because of some logistical preparations in the Central Medical Commission in Juba, we are not receiving birth certificates these days. Not [only] these days [but] for one year now," he said.

Not only that, but the hospital has also stopped conducting age assessments, which are obligatory before a birth certificate can be issued.

Pasqualla Deng Yel is worried that the delays mean he's missing out on job opportunities -- because most employers want applicants to submit a copy of an official ID before they're hired.

“I am feeling really very bad because people need nationality [IDs]," he said.

Humanitarian worker, John Dut Kuot, is also in a bit of a bind. He is being pressured by his employer to open a bank account in Aweil, but is unable to do so because he can't get an ID until state officials get his birth certificate. And you need an ID to open a bank account.

“I come four times, [and they're] just telling me these things are still in Juba... I just arrived now but [the official] said the plane didn’t come..." he said.

Hospital director Thomas said he plans to meet with the National Minister of Health in Aweil later this week to try to kickstart the process of issuing birth certificates, which would, in turn, mean that South Sudanese will be able once again to get a passport. And open a bank account. And maybe even get a job.

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