Notes from South Sudan: World Water Day in Juba

 Glenn, Lynn, and Anne with university students in Juba, South Sudan.

Glenn, Lynn, and Anne with university students in Juba, South Sudan.

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The following is a first in a series of blog posts, entitled "Notes from South Sudan", by Lynn Malooly (left), Executive Director of Water for South Sudan. She and several other WFSS team members traveled to South Sudan in March 2018. Look for more stories from her in the coming months.


I have had the honor of working at Water for South Sudan for the past eight years. In that time, I handled hundreds of photos from our work and always loved seeing photos of wells, and those who use them. I saw photos of people, village and landscapes, and our team drilling and repairing wells. But all that I saw was two-dimensional.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. I have seen hundreds of pictures of our work in South Sudan and have been so moved by the dramatic images. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, then seeing South Sudan in person is nothing short of life-changing.

When I traveled to South Sudan this past March our work, and people, became fully three-dimensional for me. I was able to experience the sights, sounds, smells and sun-soaked heat of South Sudan. Our mission came alive for me.

 Munuki Rotary Club

Munuki Rotary Club

Our trip began with a three-hour drive from Rochester to Toronto before our 12 ½ hour flight to Addis Ababa. Our traveling crew included WFSS Board President Glenn M. Balch, Jr., Board member Anne Turner, and Operations Support Coordinator Gary Prok. Once in Addis Ababa we had time for an Ethiopian coffee in the airport before another short flight to Juba, the capital of South Sudan. We walked off the plane and were met a short distance away by WFSS Founder Salva Dut. We were interviewed by a local TV station and we shared our excitement about being in South Sudan. We talked about our work and outline for our visit, including plans to see a well being drilled.

In Juba, we attended a meeting of the Rotary Club of Munuki, held in an open air hut, and heard about their work – offering scholarships, assisting with Hepatitis B vaccinations, and planting trees. They are also looking at a borehole project near Juba. Glenn, a life-long Rotarian and past District Governor, shared his enthusiasm and support for their projects.

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They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. I have seen hundreds of pictures of our work in South Sudan and have been so moved by the dramatic images. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, then seeing South Sudan in person is nothing short of life-changing.


We had the happy occasion to celebrate World Water Day in Juba on March 22. Our day started at the Tulip Inn in Juba, where we met local university students, all sporting their new WFSS t-shirts. They told us of their studies, including computer science and agriculture studies, and future plans. Their dedication and enthusiasm inspired us and was very encouraging for the future of South Sudan.

The celebration for World Water Day, and National Nile Day, took place at the Nyakuron Cultural Center. Local government officials and ministers spoke on the importance of water, and several elementary school students also spoke. The students asked a few water-themed riddles, including: “I come from the family of water, but if I go back to water I die.  Who am I?” This one completely stumped the audience (see answer below).

Glenn and I were invited to say a few words on our work and thanked everyone for their attention to the issue of access to clean water. We were invited to be in many photos to mark the day.

The Juba portion of our trip was eye-opening and energizing. We would soon leave the comforts of our hotel and travel deeper into the country, to meet our team and see the work we do.

 


Answer to riddle: Ice!

Water is Sacred and Holy in South Sudan

The following essay was written by WFSS Compound Manager Abraham Majur.

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Since time in memorial, South Sudanese beliefs, norms, and values have considered water to be sacred. A "water point" as referred to in this narrative includes: pools, rivers, hand pumps/boreholes, hand dug wells, swamp, and lakes, among others.

Holiness of Water Points and Water

The South Sudanese Dinka traditionalists believe that God resides around water points, and that water is “god.” Water has a spirit that can curse people if evil things are done at Water Points. In earlier days, Dinka elders advised young people to avoid going to rivers, swamps, pools, hand pumps/hand dug wells at late hours of the night and early mornings. Elders told that late at night, the spirits and ghosts gather along river and in swamps at those hours.

This perception has protected water points for a long time in South Sudan, even during the two wars of Sudan.

When Dinkas are making their traditional sacrifices to their “gods” the Spearmasters or Sectional/Clan elders first give water to animals to be sacrificed. The notion is that the animal will urinate and there would be enough blood. They consider this as a sign of acceptance of their sacrifice by their “gods” and ancestors. During sacrifices amongst Dinkas when animal meat is consumed, clan elders would spray young people and clan members with water, which they believe it has blessing for their “gods” and ancestors.According to the Dinka tradition, you cannot kill anything while drinking at a water point, be it wild or domestic animals/birds. Even at points of conflict, a defected enemy would not be denied access to a water point or killed while drinking. Killing enemies while they’re drinking water is believed to attract a curse on the doer and his family in present and future. 

Traditions and Stories About Water Points

There are a good number of tribes and sections of Dinka clans who sacrifice for sacred Water Points, usually to rivers and other specific Water Points in their respective localities. For example, in Yirol East, currently part of Eastern Lakes State, a section called Dhiem of Ador offers sacrifices to Lake Shambe and Ajiek sacrifices to River Payii. There are many others but those are a few examples.

 From left to right: Abraham (author), and Associate Country Directors  AJ  and  A ter

From left to right: Abraham (author), and Associate Country Directors AJ and Ater

Water for South Sudan's Wells

WFSS has drilled over 300 wells, and none of the wells have been reported vandalized or destroyed by any parties (government or rebel forces).

We are assured of the protection of the wells by users and local authorities in those respective areas.

In this regard our donors and supporters should know that their efforts, talents, resources, and time are not at waste but in service of local communities in South Sudan who have been disadvantaged by two wars of Sudan for years and current conflict.

WFSS in the News on World Water Day

Water for South Sudan's celebration of World Water Day, March 22, 2016 included news coverage in Rochester, NY and online in the Huffington Post and Forbes.com, as WFSS kicked off our Watering the Seeds of Change Capital Campaign. On March 22 WFSS had already raised $750,000 toward a goal of $1,500,000 to replace worn drilling equipment, bolster staff in the US and South Sudan, and develop a pilot sanitation project.

An article by Ryan Scott, Founder and CEO at Causecast, appeared on both the Huffington Post and Forbes.com. In his article, On World Water Day, A Story To Make You Feel Good About The World, Scott talks about WFSS Founder Salva Dut and how New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park inspired the book's publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) to donate $15,000 to drill a well in South Sudan.  HMH also created an employee giving campaign which raised an additional $15,000 in just two weeks.

Scott noted that the employee effort "thrilled the employees of HMH and drew many of them closer to their company, connecting them with the larger purpose and impact of their jobs. All because of one boy’s determination to survive and then help the people he left behind."


WFSS Interview on World Water Day

WFSS Founder Salva Dut and WFSS Executive Director Lynn Malooly were interviewed on local Fox news show "Good Day Rochester."

Salva talked about WFSS operations in South Sudan and how a new well impacts a village.  Salva said that "drilling the well is just the beginning, you see a lot happening around the well." He noted that clean water brings improved health and greater opportunity for all, including opportunities for children to go to school.

"That seed of water you plant triggers so many things," he said. Salva also thanked the Rochester community for helping him start WFSS, and also thanked supporters around the world for helping WFSS carry out its mission in the world's newest country.

He noted that today "we are all one village, taking care of one another." 

 

Other media coverage included a radio story on local PBS affiliate WXXI.

 

World Water Day Celebration and Launch of Capital Campaign

Water for South Sudan held a World Water Day celebration and press conference on Tuesday, March 22nd, at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church (DUPC) in downtown Rochester, NY. Many friends and supporters joined us as we launched our first-ever capital campaign --Watering the Seeds of Change.

The goal of the campaign is to raise $1.5 million to purchase new drilling equipment, bolster staff in the US and South Sudan and develop a pilot sanitation program. The sanitation program will go hand-in-hand with WFSS’ hygiene education program so that South Sudanese villagers can obtain the greatest health benefits of receiving clean water.

As Salva discussed on World Water Day, WFSS’ work is so much more than bringing access to clean water. Once a village has a well, girls and women no longer have to walk for up to eight hours per day to obtain water for their families. Girls can then attend school, which gives them the education they need to create more prosperous lives, and women can focus on taking care of their families and operating small businesses. Where there are wells, life is cultivated. Markets spring up and the economy flourishes. Villages can remain in one place during the dry season because their inhabitants do not have to travel for up to six months to find water. A third-world nation can move out of the cycle of poverty and subsistence farming and make a comfortable living for its people. As Salva noted, "We have great hope. I myself am hopeful that things will change, because, what we are doing, we are planting the seeds."

PROCLAMATIONS IN HONOR OF SALVA DUT
Among those who attended our World Water Day celebration and press conference were John Kreckel, Economic Development Specialist and representative of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of the 25th District of New York; Gloria Hunter, representative of New York State Senator Rich Funke; Norman Jones, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Services for the City of Rochester, representing Mayor Lovely Warren; and Frank Allkofer, Monroe County Legislator.

Jones presented a proclamation from Mayor Warren declaring that March 22nd, 2016, was a “day of honor for Salva Dut.”

Representative Louise Slaughter’s office presented Salva with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition. New York State Senator The Monroe County Legislature also presented a Certificate of Recognition to Salva.

Throughout the event speakers noted the significance of Rochester as the place that first welcomed Salva as a refugee, helped him travel back to South Sudan to visit his father, and were integral to founding Water for South Sudan.

“Rochester has always been home to good neighbors who are willing to step-up and give of themselves to help others, so it is great to see one of our own making a big difference on the world stage,” said Senator Rich Funke (R-C-I, Fairport). “I commend Salva Dut and his team at Water for South Sudan for their commitment to this cause and I look forward to watching their continued good works in the days to come.” 

CAMPAIGN ALREADY HALF-WAY TO GOAL
WFSS has quietlly been raising funds for the capital campaign, with donations as of World Water Day totaling over $750,000. Additionally our World Water Day hosts, DUPC, presented WFSS with a check for $10,000. DUPC minister Rev. Pat Youngdahl expressed her admiration for Salva and WFSS.

Thank you to our supporters across the US and around the world for enabling our work. To help us Water the Seeds of Change, please visit our campaign page.

 

World Water Day: The Impact of Clean Water

 

Go #Blue4Water on Tuesday, March 22!

Are you ready for World Water Day? World Water Day is celebrated every year on March 22 and has been recognized internationally since 1993. The United Nations dedicated this day to raise awareness about global water-related issues and to spread conversation and activism about how we as a global community can meet water-related needs. 

World Water Day’s significance is reflected in the fact that 650 million people in the world do not have access to safe water-- roughly one in ten of the world’s population. Water stress affects nutrition, public health, environmental services, housing and urban growth, and national security.

Every day is World Water Day at WFSS as we drill clean-water wells and provide access to hygiene education in South Sudan. WFSS has now drilled 275 borehole wells in South Sudan since 2005, and has provided hygiene education in every village that gets a well since 2014.

Each year the UN sets a particular theme for World Water Day. This year’s theme is Water and Jobs. WFSS helps create jobs by teaching South Sudanese and other Africans the skills to drill wells and work in operations. WFSS also helps girls reach their future career goals. When girls have nearby access to water they no longer have to walk up to eight hours a day for water, and can possibly go to school and obtain an education. Education can be the pathway for girls to a new future, and possible careers as doctors, lawyers, or teachers.

World Water Day is an important opportunity to pause and think about how to help others who do not have clean water. Join WFSS as we go #Blue4Water. Follow us on social media and let us know why water is important to you!

WFSS will celebrate World Water Day in Rochester, NY on Tuesday, March 22nd at Downtown United Presbyterian Church at 10:30 A.M. with a special event and announcement.

Information and RSVP at wfss.eventbrite.com. We look forward to seeing you there!

World Water Day is March 22. #WaterIs Everything

Water is health

Clean hands can save your life.

Water is essential to human health. The human body can last weeks without food, but only days without water. Water is essential to our survival. Regular handwashing, is for example one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. Up to one trillion germs can live in one gram of poop. 

As for the human body, in average it is made of  50-65% water. Babies have the highest percentage of water; newborns are 78% water.  Every day, every person needs access to water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene. Water is essential for sanitation facilities that do not compromise health or dignity. The World Health Organization recommends 7.5 liters per capita per day will meet the requirements of most people under most conditions. A higher quantity of about 20 liters per capita per day will take care of basic hygiene needs and basic food hygiene.

Despite impressive gains made over the last decade, 748 million people do not have access to an improved source of drinking water and 2.5 billion do not use an improved sanitation facility. Investments in water and sanitation services result in substantial economic gains. The return on investment of attaining universal access to improved sanitation has been estimated at 5.5 to 1, whereas for universal access of improved drinking-water sources the ration is estimated to be 2 to 1.To cover every person worldwide with safe water and sanitation is estimated to cost US$ 107 billion a year over a five-year period.

Water is nature

Ecosystems lie at the heart of the global water cycle. 

Ecosystems – including, for example, forests, wetlands and grassland – lie at the heart of the global water cycle. All freshwater ultimately depends on the continued healthy functioning of ecosystems, and recognizing the water cycle is essential to achieving sustainable water management. Yet most economic models do not value the essential services provided by freshwater ecosystems. This leads to unsustainable use of water resources and ecosystem degradation. For example, the Okavango river in Africa is one of the last unspoilt ecosystems on earth. Pollution from untreated residential and industrial wastewater and agricultural run-off also weakens the capacity of ecosystem to provide water-related services.

There is a need to shift towards environmentally sustainable economic policies that take account of the interconnection between ecological systems. One challenge is to maintain a beneficial mix between built and natural infrastructure and provision of their respective services.

Economic arguments can make the preservation of ecosystems relevant to decision-makers and planners. Ecosystem valuation demonstrates that benefits far exceed costs of water-related investments in ecosystem conservation. Valuation is also important in assessing trade-offs in ecosystem conservation, and can be used to better inform development plans. Adoption of ‘ecosystem-based management’ is key to ensuring water long-term sustainability.

- See more at: http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/learn/en/?section=c325497#sthash.F2rQpNP4.dpuf