South Sudan: Oxfam improves access to water in remote communities

“I used to fight. If I hadn't fought, my family would have had nothing to drink”, said Arek Mondeng, a 13-year old girl from southern Sudan when asked about her experience in fetching water from other villages.

Her village in Toch West, Gogrial East, Warrap State is located in a forested area where access to potable water is a problem. When the only hand pump in her community was broken, people collected water from other villages, which are more than an hour travel.

Local residents, mostly women and girls like Arek, used to fight because everyone wanted to fetch first from a single hand pump. Host communities usually prefer to serve first their members before the people from other villages can get water. This situation warmed the atmosphere in the water points, which inevitably resulted to women rumbling each other.

“Today, I do not need to fight just to get water for my family. The hand pump in our community is already repaired. I can attend school classes regularly,” says Arek. The hand pump in Chur village is one of the 14 repaired hand humps from the list of 64 hand pumps in at least 60 remote communities to be repaired by the Oxfam's Water and Sanitation team.

In the village of Jarmou in Toch East, women had no option when their hand pump was damaged but to fetch water from the ponds and river, which are often contaminated by flood water. The mothers reported that their children often got diarrhea when they collected water from these sources.

Aside from the torment of walking very far distances, catching diarrhea, and fighting at water points, women face dangers along the bush in quest for a drinking water. Both women and girls, who are traditionally responsible for collecting water, are afraid of their security traveling in the forest.

Awut Majok, a mother of 6 children said that she feels happy being a member of the water management committee in her village in Jarmou. “Through our training, we can sustain our hand pump and we will manage to repair it when damaged”, disclosed Awut.

Most of the water management committees at village level are no longer functional. We are reactivating these structures and we give them necessary skills training for them to manage and sustain water points,” said Evarest Ochola, Oxfam Water and Sanitation Officer.

According to Evarest, aside from the repair of the existing hand pumps, Oxfam is targeting to drill 15 hand pumps in vulnerable villages. Oxfam is working closely with the Rural Water Supply & Sanitation Department (RWSSD) of the government to address the issues on water access.

Oliver Mou, the County Director of the RWSSD expressed that Oxfam intervention on water is of great help to the department in addressing the gaps and issues on access to water. He believes that gradually, water-related problems will soon be addressed especially that NGOs and government agencies are having good collaboration and complementation of activities.

During her field visit to the project sites, Oxfam Country Director for South Sudan Sara Karimbhoy appreciated the efforts of the water and sanitation staff in accessing remote communities to bring potable water closer to the people. According to her, water is a basic element to maintain health and improve people’s living condition.

Originally published by Intermon Oxfam (Spain).

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