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South Sudan: 5.9 million without access to clean water

The weather was scorching hot in Juba. One can only wonder how people can endure the heat. People would pitch beds fitted with mosquito nets outside due to the oppressive weather. “Everyone suffers with the heat nowadays”, says 11-year old Diana. She can only think of one solution -- water.

“I am glad that people who come for check-up and treatment in the nutrition site are provided with clean drinking water, I do not have to run home for a drink”, she adds. Bertha, a 40-year old mother agreed with Diana. “My 3-year old daughter Blessing Joy knows she has to keep hydrated to be healthy, and that dirty water can make her sick”, she shares.

Diana frequently washes her. hands to avoid the coronavirus. She also know how important it is to drink clean water all the time.

 

Nutrition Coordinator Komakech Ronald Mandela who supervises 15 World Vision nutrition sites in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, says, “Clean water is important in our sites. Apart from drinking, it is mixed with sugar for children with severe acute malnutrition for energy while waiting for their turn to be checked.”

Mandela adds, “At this time, we need water for thorough handwashing, which has become more important when the pandemic happened, and also maintain cleanliness and hygiene. At least 40-50 people are served by our supply of clean water in the sites every day.”

Bertha gives youngest son 1-year old Morris a drink. 

 

But Bertha and Diana are among the small percentage of South Sudan’s population who have access to clean water. A UN report forecasts that in 2021, “an estimated 5.9 million people in the country lack, or have inadequate access to clean water”.

Of this staggering number, at least 53 percent are children. “We have seen that the majority of the children suffering from malnutrition can be attributed to lack of clean water supply. It is a very critical need”, Mandela explains.

A majority of the children suffering from malnutrition can be attributed to lack of clean water supply. It is a very critical need.

Juba’s population is dependent on trucked water that now costs SSP 600 (USD1) per 100 liters, which could last for a day for family of five. “The average income is even less than SSP 600 which means this daily supply is too expensive for a family”, Mandela adds. He shared how other people would often beg from neighbors because they cannot afford the rising cost.

Every World Vision nutrition site is supplied every two weeks with two 5,000-liter water tanks each. Apart from the needs of children and mothers who visit the site, the staff and volunteers who maintain the upkeep, the supply is also shared with Health Link South Sudan, a partner local NGO that provides health services in the sites.

When water is scarce and people cannot afford it, the priority is for drinking and cooking, often foregoing  laundry, washing and cleaning. 

 

Bertha said that most of the time, water was able to hold her family from hunger. “Due to many factors, not everyone can feed their family. I make my children drink water if there was no food, until I find them something to eat”, she says.

When COVID-19 hit the country, mothers learned from World Vision’s awareness campaigns how important water is to prevent the pandemic, even other diseases. “I taught my children proper hand-washing to keep them safe from coronavirus, even from cholera as we approach the rainy season”, Bertha explains.

Three-year old Blessing Joy learned the value of water at a young age.

 

There is nothing we can do without water. Water is life”, Bertha concluded. Now, imagine the population outside of Juba who has to walk for hours to haul water that is not even clean for drinking?

World Vision’s water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives have reached out to over 600,000 people in the country. As part of the COVID-19 prevention campaign, 77 schools were supported with hand-washing facilities.

World Vision’s nutrition assistant Santo Jango Kharim fills up the 5000-liter water tank.

 

Watch: Happiness is clean drinking water for good health

Story by Cecil Laguardia, Communications Manager I Photos by Scovia Faida Charles Duku, Communications Coordinator