March News - 25 New Wells Drilled, Sanitation Construction Continues

While snow falls in many parts of the US, the temperatures in South Sudan are well over 100 degrees. Our team continues their work, persevering and conquering challenges as we work to transform lives in South Sudan.

  VILLAGERS IN Lueth-agok VILLAGE IN AWEIL EAST STATE CELEBRATE THEIR NEW WELl sponsored by king philip middle school in connecticut.

 VILLAGERS IN Lueth-agok VILLAGE IN AWEIL EAST STATE CELEBRATE THEIR NEW WELl sponsored by king philip middle school in connecticut.

Our drilling and rehab teams have been working together to speed up the drilling process for the first part of the season, and have completed 25 wells as of March 14. The drilling team prepares and drills the wells, and is then able to move on to the next village. Meanwhile, the rehab team finishes the newly drilled well by installing the concrete platform. The rehab team will go off on their own in April to work on rehabilitating older wells in need of platform repair.

Our two hygiene teams travel along, one with the drilling team, and one with the rehab team, to deliver hygiene education in every village we visit.

This season, our Country Director, Ater Akol "Lion" Thiep will conduct the 2018 Monitoring and Evaluation of older wells this month, visiting 20 older wells to evaluate and report on their status.

Water for South Sudan has been operating in the WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene) sector for many years, focusing on water (new wells) since 2005, and hygiene education since 2014. This season, we have fully entered the WASH sector with our first pilot sanitation project.




The project broke ground in January, at an elementary school near our compound in Wau. Progress continues, managed by WFSS Associate Country Director AJ Agok, in consultation with our US team in Rochester. The school and community celebrated the groundbreaking, and look forward to use of the new latrine this spring.

We look forward to bringing you more news and photos of this project as it continues.

Water for South Sudan is now supported by donors in all 50 US states, and 49 other countries, with Finland joining the fold this month. Thank you to all who support our work to strengthen families, communities, and the young nation of South Sudan.

Follow us on social media as we celebrate World Water Day on March 22. Truly, every day is World Water Day at WFSS.

Drilling Season Update

 Breaking ground for a new latrine pilot at the Zagalona Primary School.

Breaking ground for a new latrine pilot at the Zagalona Primary School.

WFSS is pleased to announce the 2017-18 season has begun! Drilling has started and ground has been broken for the pilot sanitation project.

The drilling team is currently in the Aweil area, drilling and installing new wells. As of January 26, 10 new wells have been drilled.

We face challenges in all facets of this work. We've experienced some equipment challenges recently, and our team is hard at work addressing them. The drilling rig had a minor breakdown that was quickly repaired. Our compressors have also broken down. This has not stopped our work, and as the our team works on repairs, they are also exploring renting an additional compressor to complete the installation of new wells.

The WFSS rehab team, launched in 2017, is currently traveling with the drilling team to speed up the process of installing new wells. The rehab team plans to split off in February to begin its goal of rehabbing up to 50 of WFSS’s older wells, and the drilling team will resume total installation of the new wells.

Hygiene education is ongoing, with the WFSS hygiene teams continuing their “train the trainer” model of education in the villages. A hygiene team travels with both the drilling and rehab teams, so that WFSS can reach every village it visits to help improve hygiene practices.

Pilot Latrine Project in Wau

WFSS’s season officially began in December, with the construction of a well at the Zagalona Primary School near the WFSS Operations Center in Wau. This well was the first step in WFSS’s pilot sanitation project to install latrines in a school.  The Zagalona School serves approximately 800 students. Access to fresh water and latrines for students will help to increase health and attendance at the school.

 AJ with the community around Zagalona Primary School.

AJ with the community around Zagalona Primary School.

Ground breaking for the project began on January 3, with many in attendance, including representatives from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure (Public Utility), the Parents and Teachers Association, the village chief, and the steering committee, head teachers and board of directors from the school, along with WFSS Associate Country Director AJ Agok and WFSS Sanitation Manager Rudolf Nyiyuo Kon.

AJ noted that the community members, government officials, and school representatives, including students, were “very happy, joyful, and grateful about the new latrine and well.”

“We received great speeches from various government representatives. The Ministry of Education urged the rest of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to work like Water for South Sudan. She also said that the education system would be highly improved if all the NGOs were operating like Water for South Sudan,” AJ remarked.

The representative from the school’s Parents and Teachers Association said they will remain supportive and collaborate with the school management to sustain the latrines. AJ noted WFSS was very glad to hear parents talk about sustainability.

 The first well of the season at Zagalona Primary School.

The first well of the season at Zagalona Primary School.

The village chief thanked WFSS and said he will never forget what WFSS has done for the school children to keep them healthy with hygiene and sanitation, and will fully support school management on sustainability of the latrines and well. “Thanks to WFSS and the donors who raised the money for Zagalona Primary school. We will sustain it,” said the chief. 

The head teacher was also very thankful and said he couldn’t wait to use the latrine first to set an example for everyone on how to use the latrine.  

“My students will no longer be late for classes since they have drinking water nearby. They will no longer go to the bush and squat there because there is a latrine now. If it wasn’t for Water for South Sudan they would not be able to achieve,” said head teacher Daniel Ajiek Madut.

Iron Giraffe Challenge Update

Photo Nov 03, 1 12 32 PM.jpg

The Iron Giraffe Challenge (IGC) is well on its way to meeting the 2018 goal of $150,000 with $90,225 donated. Pledge forms have been received from over 100 schools, and 35 of those schools have already completed the challenge to raise $1,000. Each school completing the challenge will be entered into a drawing to win a visit with Salva at their school, or one of several other great Skype call prizes.

Key dates for IGC 2018 are:

February 15th: Deadline for submitting pledge forms

April 6th: Funds must be received by WFSS (via mail or online)

April 9th: Live drawing of IGC prizes

 Chardon Middle School, in Ohio, has completed their pledge for the Iron Giraffe Challenge.

Chardon Middle School, in Ohio, has completed their pledge for the Iron Giraffe Challenge.

Salva and the entire WFSS team are so grateful to all of the schools and students who raise money for WFSS. We are inspired by the compassion of these children to help children in South Sudan. It’s not too late for your school to join the IGC and help Salva drill more wells. 

For questions about the IGC contact Lucie Parfitt at or 585-383-0410.

WFSS Plans for Drilling, Rehab, Hygiene and Sanitation Projects in 2018

WFSS finished the 2016-17 season with a new total of 304 wells drilled since 2005. Planning for the next season began soon after. Starting with a review of the successes and challenges of the past season, our South Sudan Leadership Council, with support from the Rochester-based Operations Committee, began developing their plan for the upcoming season.

The team assessed and repaired vehicles and equipment as needed; they then prepared supply lists for all that is needed to drill new wells, rehabilitate older wells and provide hygiene education. Our Country Director Ater Akol Thiep is currently in Kampala, Uganda, purchasing pumps, pipes, casings and cement, and all the other supplies that we are unable to source in South Sudan. This is just one of the challenges we face, operating in the newest country in the world.

The WFSS team is in the final stages of preparation for the 2018 season, with plans to drill up to 40 new wells, rehabilitate up to 50 older wells, and bring hygiene education training to every village we visit.

Sanitation Project Plans

In addition, our team in South Sudan has been researching effective and sustainable sanitation solutions for South Sudan, with plans to install a pilot latrine project in a school. While the need for clean water often takes center stage, the lack of proper sanitation facilities in South Sudan is also a severe problem.

The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals include Goal #6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all. As UN Water reports, the benefits of having access to an improved drinking water source can only be fully realized when there is also access to improved sanitation and adherence to good hygiene practices. Beyond the immediate, obvious advantages of people being hydrated and healthier, access to water, sanitation and hygiene – known collectively as WASH – has profound wider socio-economic impacts, particularly for women and girls.

WFSS is looking to engage in this sector, and is working with local NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in South Sudan to understand the problem and implement workable solutions.

Thank you to our friends and supporters across the US and around the world, who enable our work. We could not do it without you, and we are deeply grateful for your support.

Local Leadership Drives our Team in South Sudan

 WFSS Team at the start of the 2017 season

WFSS Team at the start of the 2017 season

Water for South Sudan (WFSS), established in 2003, has been working in South Sudan since 2005.  The safety and security of our team has been our number one priority since the beginning.


As of May, 2017 we have now drilled 304 wells, provided hygiene education to over 150,000 trainers, and have rehabilitated and repaired many wells-- our wells, and those drilled by others. This year we will pilot a school sanitation project. Our team is safe, secure, and planning for the future.


WFSS Led by Local Staff in South Sudan

Our team has been able to stay safe through our years of operation, and they remain safe today. Our US office is in constant contact with our South Sudan team, and receives daily security updates. Our team has many precautions in place to ensure their safety, as well as appropriate contingency and evacuation plans should they ever be needed.

One reason for our continued success, and ability to stay engaged, is our on-the-ground leadership team, started by our Founder, Salva Dut, and now continued by our Country Directors, Ater Thiep and Ajang Agok. They, along with our management team, support staff and seasonal employees are all South Sudanese. Our in-country team is able to connect with local and national government offices, and also monitor security issues.  They understand the culture, language and lifestyle of the country well and are guardedly hopeful about ongoing peace dialogues in the country.

Team Members and Their Families Safe in Wau

 wfss country director, and former "lost boy," ater akol thiep.

wfss country director, and former "lost boy," ater akol thiep.

Mathew Akuar Akuar, our Hygiene Manager and Assistant Drilling Manager reports that his family is in Wau, the second largest city in South Sudan, and home to our operations center. He notes, "My family feels safe in Wau. There is no fear and business people are running their work normally."

Country Director Ater Akol Thiep agrees. He notes that Wau is currently one of the safest area in South Sudan, given its strategic location, and that the national dialogue initiative between the government and rebels is being held in Wau, and "that is why my brothers, sisters, and cousins are staying here with me."

Thiep further explains, "WFSS donors need to understand that the WFSS team values their lives and equipment very much, and if the security situation is not good, it will be their responsibility to stop work and evacuate our staff and equipment immediately to safety.

"But now we really feel good about the situation in South Sudan in general and Wau area in particular. Now over twenty NGO's (non-governmental organizations) are still operating in Wau and none of them have asked for evaluation because they know that the situation here is normal. But we also know that there are some parts in the country which are not safe, and we will try to avoid those areas until we are sure of the safety."                                                                                 

Water, Sanitation, Hygiene is the First Step in Development

 WFSS Founder Salva Dut

WFSS Founder Salva Dut

We remain hopeful that the young nation of South Sudan can grow and develop. Bringing access to fresh water, hygiene education and sanitation can be a huge first step. Once villages have a stable source of water they can look to next steps, which include establishing local markets, health clinics and schools. Education is vitally important if South Sudan is to grow and develop.

WFSS Founder Salva Dut explains, "The main key for a peaceful South Sudan is to educate the next generation.  Young people understand the meaning of the peace. Providing education helps to keep watering the elements to ensure our future. Keeping young people healthy by providing clean drinking water is the first step."

Hope for the future

Salva explains that he is still hopeful for the future of South Sudan, and, as a dual US-South Sudanese citizen, he reaches into his US history for reasons why.

"The United States went through many wars and Americans were still hopeful and didn't give up. They went through the Civil War, World War II, Vietnam and others, and America today has prosperity. The civil war of South Sudan will stop some day and the people there will be living in peace and happiness."


Planning for 2017-18 Season

Our team has spent the summer debriefing on the past season, and planning for the next one. Plans include drilling up to 40 new wells, rehabilitating 40-50 older wells, providing hygiene education training in every village we visit, and constructing a pilot sanitation project in a school. 

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WFSS Seeks Lead Mechanic in South Sudan

 Join our team in South Sudan!

Join our team in South Sudan!

WFSS seeks full time employees who would like to learn and grow with the organization. We are currently seeking a full time lead mechanic for our Operations Center in Wau Town. The lead mechanic will be responsible for general mechanical work, repairing and maintaining cars, trucks, drilling rigs, compressors, and generators.

Applicants must be South Sudanese citizens with at least two years’ experience as a mechanic with an International or National NGO, and must present a letter of recommendation from a former employer.

Application deadline is September 15, 2017. For a list of requirements, and information on applying, please see job posting here.

2017 Season Concludes, 304 Wells Drilled Since 2005

Water for South Sudan successfully completed its 13th season this May. The organization also celebrated reaching the milestone of having drilled over 300 new wells since drilling began in 2005. Overall operations have now grown to include a new rehab team, and two hygiene teams. All worked together to continue transforming lives in South Sudan, by bringing access to clean water and providing hygiene education.

The 2017 season progressed in large measure thanks to the dedication and creativity of our South Sudan team, led by Country Director Ater Akol "Lion" Thiep and Assistant Country Director Ajang "AJ" Abraham Agok. WFSS Founder Salva Dut serves as Senior Advisor, assisting both the South Sudan team, and the US staff and WFSS Board of Directors.

While the base of our operations continues to be drilling wells, we are pleased to report that our new rehab team, led by Lion, far exceeded the goals we set this year. The team planned to repair 20 of our oldest wells in 2017; they succeeded in repairing 31. The rehab team was launched in response to the 2015 well evaluation survey which showed that a number of our oldest wells were in need of repair. While all wells were found to be working and producing clean water, the cement platforms and drainage channels showed serious signs of erosion.

Our US Operations Team worked with our South Sudan team to address these challenges. They determined that we needed to use a stronger cement, and also further improved the design of the well platform and channel to promote drainage of water away from the well. In addition, they implemented procedures to build fencing around the well to discourage traffic by people and animals over the platforms and drainage channels.

“We took a big step back and looked at everything we were doing,” said US Director of Operations Don Fairman. “We were able to greatly improve the strength of the concrete, and looking at the entire well design led to improvements that will add to the long-term sustainability of the wells.”

The design improvements were used in both new and rehabilitated wells this year, and reaction was swift and positive. Villagers were pleased to have their water sources improved so dramatically, and other NGOs also noted the improvement in the design.

The rehab team heard many stories of improved life in villages that have been using WFSS wells.

WFSS drilled a well in Alabek County, Tonj State in 2007. When the rehab team arrived to repair one of the wells this year, they talked to a local woman named Yar about many of the improvements that she had seen in the years since. Yar noted that many diseases like Guinea worm, diarrhea, and typhoid have been reduced due to the presence of clean water in the area. She also noticed positive change in village life. Before the well was drilled, only four students attended school. Now the number has increased to 26, including nine girls. Yar further noted that improvements went beyond people: the life of domestic animals also changed positively, as there are more animals and they also have improved access to water. 




In 2014 we launched our first hygiene education team, led by Mathew Akuar Akuar, a local South Sudanese. Mathew has overseen hygiene education, improving the content and delivery in each successive season. This year we launched a second hygiene team which traveled with our rehab team. Now villages that received wells over 10 years ago are also benefiting from improved hygiene practices.

The hygiene education program emphasizes community participation and equips villagers to identify hygiene practices in need of improvement. The team trains eight people in each village, four men and four women. Each of these trainees can then train others, thereby expanding the impact and safe usage of clean water.


In 2014 WFSS began collaborating with Omaha-based Aqua-Africa on the United Peace and Development Project (UPDP). WFSS drilled two more wells for the UPDP this year, bringing the total number of wells drilled for the project to 14. The two organizations originally came together to find ways to bridge divides in South Sudan. WFSS Founder Salva Dut is from the Dinka tribe, while Aqua-Africa Founder Buey Ray Tut is from the Nuer tribe. While these two tribes have a long history of conflict in South Sudan, Salva and Buey see themselves as South Sudanese first, and wanted to find a way to work together. They developed the UPDP to bring access to clean water to different tribal areas. Salva and Buey have demonstrated a deep respect for each other, and the value of working together.

“Our dream is to make South Sudan a better place for people to live,” says Buey. “We want to show people how we can all work together to achieve this dream,” adds Salva. On the practical level, the UPDP drills wells and provides clean water, but the real impact of the partnership is the ability to overcome historical conflict and inspire peaceful resolutions, and work together for a greater good.


After the season ended, the WFSS teams left the field and traveled back to our compound in Wau to begin assessing all vehicles and equipment. Salva, Lion and AJ will travel to the US for meetings with WFSS staff and board of directors in June. The timeline for the 2018 season will be developed and the logistical planning will begin.

“We have come a long way,” says Salva. “I am so grateful for the generosity of our supporters around the world.”                                                                                       

Thanks to all of our supporters who enable our work in South Sudan.

WFSS Drills 300th Well in South Sudan!

Water for South Sudan reached a significant milestone last week with the drilling of our 300th well. Starting with our first well, drilled in Founder Salva Dut's village in 2005, we have not stopped in our mission to bring access to clean water in South Sudan. Despite continuing challenges in South Sudan, our work continues, and we continue to transform lives.

Water for South Sudan's 2017 season is winding down as the end of the dry season approaches in May. Once the rainy season starts in earnest our vehicles are not able to travel through the muddy "roads" of South Sudan. Until the rains come, however, our drilling, rehab and hygiene teams will continue to reach remote, rural villages in need of clean water and hygiene education.

 well sponsored by employees of hmh, publishers of  a long walk to water.

well sponsored by employees of hmh, publishers of a long walk to water.

Our drilling team, led by "A.J" Agok, our Assistant Country Director, has drilled 19 new wells this season, bringing our total to over 300 wells drilled since 2005. Each new well brings greater health and stability to a village. Access to clean water means that girls and women no longer have to walk miles to gather water that is often dirty and contaminated. A well in a village can be the first step toward stability and development. Markets, schools and clinics can grow up in a village that has access to water.

Our pilot well rehabilitation team, led by WFSS Country Director Ater Thiep, has had a very successful year, going over their original goal of rehabilitating 20 of our oldest wells, and has repaired 26 wells as of April 24, 2017. The creation of the rehab team grew out of our 2015 well evaluation trip in which we were able to visit 80 of our wells. While we found that all wells were operational and producing fresh water, we also found that the cement platforms on some of the oldest wells were worn and eroded. This prompted a look at our procedures, and led to an improvement on many aspects. Our rehab team reports that villagers are very pleased with the results.

 an older well, before wfss rehab's work. see below for repaired well!

an older well, before wfss rehab's work. see below for repaired well!

Both the drilling team and rehab team are using a new design this year, which includes better cement mixing for the cement platforms and animal drinking troughs. Our US Operations Team designed a long narrow drinking trough, leading away from the well head, for animals to drink. This allows villagers to get water for their animals without adding more wear and tear on the cement, and also keeps the animals away from the well head. Other NGOs in South Sudan have been interested in our new design and have given us positive feedback on its efficiency.

 villagers celebrate repaired well, ensuring a future with access to fresh water

villagers celebrate repaired well, ensuring a future with access to fresh water

In addition to drilling and rehab, we now have two hygiene education teams, one each traveling with the drilling and rehab teams, helping to improve hygiene practices in every village we visit.

WFSS strives to involve community members, and give local ownership in everything we do. Wells are installed after consulting with county officials, and village elders determine final placement of the wells. Hygiene education addresses the specific needs of a village, training four men and four women in each village. These villagers can then train others, helping to share education which improve health, hygiene, and the impact of clean water.

The 2017 season will be coming to a close soon. Once this season ends we will debrief with our team and begin plans for the next season.

South Sudan faces many challenges, but our teams are safe and able to do their work. We are in continual contact with them and are always assessing the safety and security both in the country, and in the areas in which we work. Our team assures us that our work can continue. 

Water for South Sudan thanks all of our supporters, across the US and around the world, who enable our work.