Neither company responded to multiple requests for comment on the reports, and did not answer detailed questions sent by email and text message from the AP.
The reports show that the government and the oil companies have been aware for years that contamination from drilling could be causing severe health problems in the local population. But little has been done, local residents say, to clean up the mess. Promises by the government and the oil companies to tackle the pollution have repeatedly been broken, they say.
“People are dying of unknown diseases,” said Simon Ngor, a pastor with a church in Melut, a small village in the oil-rich area of Upper Nile state. “The oil company says they’re working on it but I don’t think they actually are.”
The environmental and health problems are particularly damaging in South Sudan, a country that was only established nine years ago and shortly after was torn apart by civil war and famine. It’s among the poorest nations in the world and depends on its oil industry to survive.