Repaired Nile bridge improves access to South Sudan capital

JUBA – The repair of the only bridge over the Nile River in South Sudan has restored the flow of vital goods and services to the capital of the world’s newest nation.

The Juba Nile Bridge has been fully reopened ahead of schedule, following a rehabilitation project that was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by UNOPS. The bridge is an essential part of the Juba–Nimule road, a major primary road connecting the capital to neighbouring Kenya and Uganda.

The 252-metre bridge was damaged in 2010 after an accident, leaving one lane completely unusable for heavy vehicles. This slowed down the movement of all vehicles carrying food, construction materials and other items to Juba. South Sudan’s president, Mr Salva Kiir, identified the repair of the Juba Nile bridge as one of his Government’s priorities during the administration’s first 100 days, reflecting the strategic importance of the crossing.
A local construction firm started the repair works in December 2010. UNOPS supervised this contractor and coordinated the Government’s traffic management authorities. The bridge was reopened to full capacity in mid-January 2012, ahead of the scheduled February completion date. South Sudanese, US Government and United Nations dignitaries commented on the importance of the bridge during a ceremony to mark the reopening.

Gier Chuang Aluong, the South Sudanese Minister of Roads and Bridges, said: "Roads and bridges are very crucial for development. Without them, you do not talk about health, without them you do not talk about education, without them you do not talk about security and all social services."

Lise Grande, UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Resident Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan said: "I can count on one hand the number of projects that were successfully completed ahead of schedule in South Sudan. This bridge will play a crucial role for economic growth in this country. I’d like to congratulate UNOPS for its incredible speed and quality of work."

The US ambassador to South Sudan, H.E. Susan Page, added: "We know that in order to quench South Sudan’s thirst for a better life, there are many challenges to be overcome. Top among these is improved infrastructure, especially the roads and bridges that are so vital to the new nation’s regional integration, its economic development, public services, and security. Our investment in this bridge was ably implemented by the United Nations through its Office for Project Services [UNOPS]. We value our partnership with the United Nations and know we must work together if we are to help South Sudan in its efforts to develop the nation and achieve peace and stability."

After the bridge was reopened queues on both sides of the river disappeared immediately. According to local mini-bus driver Hussein: "It is good to have both bridge lanes passable so that there are no more traffic jams."

USAID provided funding for the repair work under the Accelerated Infrastructure Program, a Cooperative Agreement with UNOPS, which has strengthened many parts of the country’s infrastructure.

The programme included the construction and rehabilitation of schools, health centres and roads. All activities also focused on developing and building the capacity of state ministry staff, local contractors and communities through targeted training, close supervision of contractors and, where feasible, labour-based construction methods.