Bringing clean water to thousands displaced by violence

Published: 11 February 2014 16:49 CET

By Susan Onyango, IFRC

When violence erupts in a country, one of the first things that is compromised is the infrastructure, especially if that infrastructure is fragile to begin with and in a developing country.

In South Sudan, heavy fighting in December forced thousands of people from their homes in Juba and Awerial county. An estimated 130,000 fled to neighbouring countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. Thousands more hunkered down in camps set up by humanitarian aid organizations.

They all need access to clean water.

As part of a joint initiative with other humanitarian actors, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), through its water and sanitation Regional Disaster Response Team, is supporting the South Sudan Red Cross in ensuring thousands of people, now living in a camp in Juba, to have that access.

Volunteers with the local Red Cross have helped to manage the distribution of clean water and carry out hygiene promotion activities. They are managing two of the five water points in the camp, four of which function simultaneously at any given time. Water, mainly sourced from a government agency, is delivered to the camp in trucks. Additional supplies are drawn from boreholes when the need arises. The team records chlorine and acid levels to ensure standards are maintained.

“We are meeting the demand for water, at 15 litres per day per person, despite the huge number of internally displaced persons,” said John Lobor, South Sudan Red Cross Deputy Secretary General. “In addition to distributing water, our volunteers are carrying out hygiene promotion activities at all the water points in the camp in order to prevent the outbreak of waterborne diseases.”

“The camps are overcrowded and sanitation facilities are stretched,” said Dr Ben Adeiza, IFRC health coordinator in Africa. “Conditions are conducive for an outbreak of disease such as acute diarrhoea and cholera. It is important that Red Cross volunteers visit these camps daily to keep reinforcing messages about proper hygiene.”

Those messages include stressing the importance of hand washing after using the toilet and before eating or handling food, and the benefits of drinking clean water over untreated river water to keep harmful bacteria at bay.

IFRC allocated 286,695 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to complement the efforts of the South Sudan Red Cross in assisting 40,000 people in Awerial county and Juba who have been affected by the ongoing violence.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is leading the operations in South Sudan with the support of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. IFRC operates strictly in a neutral, independent and impartial manner to respond to humanitarian needs and to provide support to anyone affected, in compliance with international humanitarian law.