December 16, 2016 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese Pound (SSP) has lost about 80% of its value, nearly 12 months since the Central Bank floated the exchange rate against the U.S dollar, as most South Sudanese families anticipate tough times during this festive season.
- Thousands of people match in Bor, Jonglei State to celebrate Christmas Eve (ST/File)
“My children want new clothes, but I am not sure of what they will eat tomorrow. It is not about new cloths now,” Mary Yar, a mother of three, told Sudan Tribune Friday.
A resident of Lologo, a Juba surburb, Yar moved to the South Sudan capital in 2014, after conflict displaced her from Bor in Jonglei state.
For her children, however, Christmas is a season for new clothes.
“I would buy each of them a pair of shoe, trousers and everything they required but now, I have to use any money on what they will eat,” narrates the mother of three.
Yar does not have a permanent job. At the moment, she works in a restaurant as a waitress, earning a daily wage of 100 SSP (about $1).
Yar is among the millions of South Sudanese calling off luxurious celebrations during this festive season. Millions of South Sudanese have, as a result of war, been displaced from their homes and face severe food shortages. Government has not paid its workers for months and this, for instance, saw teachers strike in Jonglei state.
Presently, one U.S dollar trades between 90 and 100 SSP in the parallel market.
There is scarcity of hard currency in South Sudan, a landlocked country that depends on imports of food and medical among others from neighboring countries.
On Wednesday, South Sudan President Salva Kiir duly acknowledged the hard situation in the country, saying he too felt the pain most families faced, but offered no remedies to the situation.
“I was planning to spend my Christmas in Nairobi but have to think twice,” John Moro, a resident of Juba told Sudan Tribune on Friday.
Moro said he earns about 3,000 SSP, a substantially good pay in a nation where most civil servants are paid less than 1,000 SSP monthly.
“Juba is now very expensive and very hot,” explains Moro.
A meal, in most Juba restaurants, now costs SSP 100 or more, but prices are higher in hotels due to the deteriorating economic situation.
“If I was to spend my Christmas or New Year day with friends in a good restaurant, it will cost me three months pay,” stressed Moro.
The festive seasons, which are meant to host friends, buy new cloths and make trips to the countryside, would pass unnoticed. Some Christian Churches organ street marches on the eve of Christmas and children, like Yar’s, want to attend when dressed in new attires.
“My prayer is tranquility in the country. If there is peace, I may choose to leave in the country and my children will be happy and enjoy celebrations without fear of hunger or failure to buy new cloths,” said Yar.