Red Cross team brings clean water and helps reduce cholera cases in South Sudan

Published: 1 December 2014 12:12 CET

by Chiran Livera, IFRC and Marial Mayom, South Sudan Red Cross

Providing clean water is essential during a cholera outbreak as it helps stop the spread of the disease through contaminated food and water. This is always done alongside promoting good hygiene and sanitation practices. During a recent cholera outbreak in South Sudan, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies did just that, deploying a water and sanitation Emergency Response Unit to support activities being implemented by the South Sudan Red Cross.

“The objective for the team is not just to produce clean water, but also to improve the health situation of the town and restore the dignity of the people. Providing clean water is how this team was going to do that,” said Oscar Socarrades, Spanish Red Cross team lead. “Working with other South Sudan Red Cross colleagues in logistics and health was also crucial to achieving our goal here. We are just one part of a much larger operation.”

The unit is comprised of a group of eight engineers and a water production unit – which takes water from an unsafe source and cleans it to produce clean water for 40,000 people a day. The unit arrived in a special cargo plane from Europe, along with Red Cross staff from Austria, Germany and Spain, specialists in engineering, and water and sanitation who assisted in setting up and operating the unit.

The South Sudan Red Cross is the youngest National Red Cross Society. Strengthening its capacity to respond to increasingly complex needs is the major focus of the Movement’s support to the operations.

Talking to communities is key. In this case, the intended site of the unit was near a river where locals fetched water for bathing, drinking and washing clothes. Speaking to people at the site, Socarrades and the team first established the community’s water and sanitation needs and explained to villagers what the Red Cross team was there to do. Hearing the feedback of the beneficiaries helped consolidate the plan for the unit.

“We successfully produced thousands of litres of water each day, and there was always a stream of people at the site,” reports Socarrades.

Through the availability of fresh water and a prompt response of Red Cross partners and hundreds of South Sudan Red Cross volunteers who assisted with prevention activities, there was a noticeable reduction in cholera cases in the area.