Freshwater Wells Improve Health, Help Build Infrastructure in South Sudan
Formed in 2011 after a two-decade civil war, the Republic of South Sudan is the world's newest nation. As its citizens flock back to government-sponsored repatriation areas in their homeland, they face a number of challenges. Among the most urgent is access to clean, safe drinking water.
During the two-decade civil war that preceded the formation of South Sudan, thousands of orphaned young boys fled on foot to refugee camps, where they became known as "The Lost Boys of Sudan." Among them was Salva Dut, who, as a teenager, led 1,500 boys hundreds of miles through the Southern Sudan desert to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. He was relocated to the United States in 1996, but did not forget the plight of his people. He now heads Water for South Sudan, Inc. (WFSS), a nonprofit he founded in 2004.
Salva Dut's plan is simple and direct: to drill deep-water wells in remote villages of South Sudan.
Located just north of the Equator, South Sudan has a tropical climate, with alternating dry and rainy seasons. Its rural people have historically lived migratory lives, moving seasonally to areas where water can be found. Usually, that water is polluted. According to a UN report, 36% of all hospital cases reported in the area result from parasitic intrusions into the digestive system.
"Without safe water, millions of South Sudanese must trek miles every day to collect water from ponds, marshes, ditches, or hand-dug wells," says Christopher Moore, chair of WFSS. "This water is often contaminated with parasites and disease-bearing bacteria. The results are sickness or even death."
TPRF is partnering with WFSS to fund the installation of wells with hand pumps in remote villages west and east of the White Nile, which bisects the country. The nonprofit estimates that each well will provide 1,000–1,500 people with their basic safe water needs.
On site, WFSS is staffed by Sudanese, a fact which is respected in the area and which enables it to deal more effectively with the sometimes unwieldy government regulations.
"WFSS, in consultation with village leaders, installs these water wells close to villages and towns," Moore says, "thus affording steady, nearby sources of drinking water. Women and children (most often girls) no longer need to walk great distances to gather water from often dirty and disease-infested surface water sources. Moreover, there is no longer a need to migrate yearly to follow the water during the dry season. With the building of a well, the community may have a medical clinic, school, and other important infrastructure grow within the town and village."
Photo credits: Water for South Sudan