Death of a U.S. Citizen

The Juba Consular Section is available to assist family and friends in the event of the death of an American Citizen in South Sudan.  Our services include:

  • Finding and notifying the next-of-kin of the deceased
  • Acting as a liaison with local police, hospital and mortuary authorities (see below)
  • Arranging for the disposition and repatriation of remains (see below)
  • Coordinating administrative and financial requirements
  • Assisting in the collection and return of personal effects to next-of-kin
  • Issuing a “Report of Death of American Citizen Abroad”.

The Embassy may be able to take charge of personal effects and possessions of the deceased if instructed to do so by the next-of-kin. This may not be necessary if the deceased has a friend, family member, or co-worker present in South Sudan at the time of death.

We will conduct a thorough inventory of any personal effects and send a copy to the next-of-kin. We can send the family any items they wish to have returned at their expense, normally using DHL. Most families decide to donate items of little sentimental or monetary value (clothing, suitcases, kitchenware, etc.) to a local charity in order to avoid the large expense involved in returning these items to the United States. The Embassy will gladly arrange for this charitable donation on the family’s behalf.

In cases where the estate of the deceased exceeds $1000, the Embassy will require more detailed legal documents, such as Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration, prior to releasing money or effects to the next-of-kin.

The “Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad” is an official report, in English, that provides the essential facts concerning the death of a U.S. Citizen. It functions in much the same way as a death certificate issued in the United States and can be used to settle bank accounts, insurance policies and other estate matters.  A minimum of 20 certified copies will be sent to the next-of-kin. Families may order additional certified copies from the Department of State for a fee.

Families may receive up to three sets of documents from the Embassy:

  • 20 copies of “Consular Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad” (no cost)
  • A certified copy of the South Sudan Death Certificate An original Autopsy Report (at the family’s expense)
  • An original Autopsy Report, if any (at the family’s expense)

More information is available at:

http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/abroad/events-and-records/death.html

Disposition of Remains: Currently, there are no licensing requirements for funeral directors and morticians in South Sudan. The availability of morgues and mortuary professionals is extremely limited, and the services necessary to prepare a body for international transport are generally only available in Juba.  Remains from deaths occurring outside of Juba will often not be in a condition acceptable for embalming and international transport once they arrive in the capital.  Because refrigerated storage facilities are extremely limited, prompt arrangements for burial are required soon after death.

Morgue:  The only morgue in Juba meeting basic health and sanitation requirements is operated by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which offers services to non-official U.S. citizens on an ad hoc and as-available basis only. (+211 912 177 134)  Remains are kept in a refrigerated container.  UNMISS will not charge for keeping remains in the morgue, but asks that remains be removed from the morgue as quickly as possible. [NOTE: Embassy Juba suggests embalming the remains and placing them in a purchased coffin at the time of initial transport to the UNMISS morgue.]

Embalming:  The only embalming service in South Sudan is at the Juba Teaching Hospital.  (+211 956 393 074)  The embalming is rudimentary. Re-embalming may be necessary after transportation of the body from South Sudan.

Transportation:  In-country transportation is difficult and expensive, particularly during the rainy season (April–October).  Charter aircraft may be available, and costs may range from $5,000 to $20,000 or more for transportation to Juba.

For transportation of the body outside of South Sudan, the primary airline operating onward flights to the United States is Ethiopian Airlines, which flies to Washington, DC through Addis Ababa. The cost is around $2,000 depending on the weight of the coffin and remains.  To reach Ethiopian Airlines in Juba, call +211 956 988 408.  A charter flight may be necessary to transport the body to a neighboring country prior to shipment to the United States or elsewhere.

Caskets and Containers: There are no national or local South Sudanese laws governing the size or material used for caskets and containers.  Use of caskets and containers depends on a family’s ability to pay associated costs.  Coffins for international shipping must be leak-proof. Body bags may be available from the U.S. Embassy.  Locally built caskets are available, but may not be suitable for shipping a body unless it is first placed into a body bag.

A coffin suitable for international air travel may be available from UNMISS for approximately $1,000, depending upon availability and current practice.  To purchase a coffin from UNMISS, call +211 926 632 055 (chief of staff).  Coffins may cost around $1,000.

Requirements for Export: Airlines require that bodies be embalmed, conveyed in a leak-proof coffin designed for international travel and accompanied by a consular mortuary report affixed to the coffin.  South Sudanese export requirements are subject to the personal preference of airport officials on duty at the time of export.  The first step is to obtain a police report describing the circumstances of death, which can be used to obtain a death certificate from the Ministry of Health.  Present the death certificate to the Ministry of the Interior, which will give written permission to export.  Take this document to the Ministry of Customs, which will issue an export license.   After embalming, ask the embalmer for a certificate of embalming.  Airport authorities will often require the deceased’s original passport or at least a photocopy.  Security officials will likely delay loading of the body onto the plane.

Death in Special Circumstances: In the event of death caused by infectious disease, no special requirements exist and no particular authorities are notified.  When a death occurs under suspicious circumstances, the South Sudanese Police are notified in order to carry out an investigation.   While South Sudanese authorities do not require special documentation, ensure that Center for Disease Control (CDC) officials at the U.S. Embassy have provided documentation to ensure that U.S. customs requirements are met.

Maximum Period before Burial: There is no South Sudanese law limiting the time in which a body must be buried, but the scarcity and expense of refrigerated storage facilities dictates that the disposition of remains be completed as quickly as possible.

Cremation:  Cremation is not available in South Sudan.

Exportation of Human Cremains/Ashes:  Cremation is not available in South Sudan

Disclaimer: U.S. Embassy Juba assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the persons or firms referenced in this document. Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the funeral directors, morticians and other service providers.

Last updated June 1, 2016.