By Nina Devries
Location: Bentiu Town, South Sudan
In South Sudan, water supply and hygiene services have been deeply affected by the ongoing conflict. It’s estimated just under half of the population have access to clean water. Many women and girls are often forced to walk long distances to access water. But a rehabilitated water treatment plant is already making a difference for them.
Through an initiative, funded by USAID, UNICEF and partners are working to improve the lives of people in Bentiu, South Sudan. The town’s water treatment plant was looted and damaged in 2014 due to the ongoing civil war. It was rehabilitated and upgraded in May 2016. It produces 500,000 litres per day of safe, clean treated water.
The water is being pumped to 24 water points across the city. The focus in this first phase of the urban water program is to ensure children have access to safe water at home, at school and in public places.
Angelina Nyakuma is a mother of six. She used to fetch water from the river and says it would take about two hours. A snake once bit her while she was trying to collect water. She still suffers to this day from the bite.
Now, with the water treatment plant fully operational, a water point at the Machakos Primary school near her house has been restored and Angelina can access clean water.
Angelina is thrilled that now she can access water close by and where her children also attend school.
Unsafe water puts people at increased risk for waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera. When 15 year old student Mary Nyakuma Peter’s sister died from a water borne disease she was devastated. She’s grateful there’s clean water now available at her school, but wishes it had come sooner.
Nyahok Yar is a disabled woman living at the Kochthei camp for displaced people. She use to travel up to two hours a day to collect water. Now the water is accessible in the centre of the camp and she can fetch it with her children daily. It takes her only a few minutes, making it possible for her to make the journey several times a day.
The Bentiu hospital is also now receiving clean, safe water thanks to the rehabilitated water treatment plant. This water helps prevent further illness with patients who are admitted. Especially as the hospital is now getting more patients with diseases like malaria due to the rainy season.
Across the country UNICEF has supported 483,912 people to access safe water and over 174,569 internally displaced people and host community members have received access to safe sanitation facilities.