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.
HYGIENE EDUCATION INCREASES IMPACT OF CLEAN 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.
UNITING FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT
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.
AS ONE SEASON ENDS, ANOTHER BEGINS
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.