South Sudan is the world’s youngest country, having claimed independence from the north three years ago, but since December last year it has been embroiled in conflict.
In eight months more than 1.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes and take refuge wherever they can – other villages, UN protection sites, and neighbouring countries.
The conflict, harsh weather conditions and evacuation of communities has made it incredibly difficult to access clean water. The fighting has made it difficult to get to water, and heavy rains have contaminated the supply. Prior to the conflict access to clean water in some areas of the country was already difficult. South Sudan has endured a chronic lack of services for a very long time but with violence and mass displacement, the situation has become dire.
Communities and UN protection sites are hosting 1.3 million displaced South Sudanese. The few available water boreholes in UN camps are overwhelmed resulting in limited access to clean drinking water in crowded communities and camps. Some people are fetching water from nearby dirty water pools.
Access to clean water is fundamental to emergency response, without it disease soon follows. Drinking contaminated water is responsible for more than 5,500 reported cases of cholera in South Sudan in the past few months. Cholera, a water-borne infectious disease, causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration. Without proper treatment, cholera can kill especially in developing countries with a lack of clean water, hygiene and sanitation. Sadly more than 120 people in South Sudan have died from cholera in the past few months, which simply should not happen.
World Vision has been working to help the people of South Sudan get access to clean water for seven years. Months of conflict mean our team is working even harder to provide more water and sanitation interventions for the affected population.
Twic, an area in northern South Sudan, has received thousands of people seeking refuge from the conflict. Twic's constrained water and sanitation infrastructure has resulted in poor water quality putting the population at risk of cholera. To assist, World Vision is drilling nine new boreholes for the community and fixing 15 existing boreholes to improve access to clean drinking water for both the community and the many people they are now hosting. To ensure the sustainability of the boreholes, the team is training local committees on water management and mechanics to ensure continued access to safe, clean drinking water.
It’s hard to imagine living months without access to safe drinking water but sadly it is the reality for thousands of people in South Sudan.
By Karen Alexander, World Vision Australia South Sudan Response Program Manager.