New climate change resilient facilities help prevent malnutrition in Jonglei State

UNICEF helps provide clean water access before, during and after the floods

James Wechrial
Flood resilient latrine in Bilkey village
28 December 2021

South Sudan has been experiencing devastating floods for three consecutive years, Jonglei State being hit the hardest with 288,765 individuals affected and displaced from their homes, basic livelihoods destroyed, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructures submerged and/or collapsed. Severe WASH needs are prevalent and safety concerns have emerged coupled with food insecurity and high global acute malnutrition (GAM) rates, especially among the internally displaced populations (IDPs). 6 Counties in Jonglei State were among the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Phase 4 emergency and 5 catastrophic (Pibor, Akobo, Bor South, Ayod, Twic East and Duk) in the December 2020 report. Currently, 5 counties are experiencing terrible flooding even during the dry season with climate change impacts visible.

The impact of flooding has badly affected women and children with WASH services remaining far below Sphere standards that state there should be an average of 7.5 liters of water per person, per day available and no more than 60 people using 1 latrine. As safe water points are submerged, most people have resorted to using unsafe stagnant water and unsafe sanitation practices, resulting in poor hygiene habits and high levels of open defecation. This exposes them to water-borne diseases and increases their vulnerability to malnutrition.

In May 2021, UNICEF scaled up WASH activities in prioritized food-insecure counties of Pibor with financing from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and designed climate-resilient WASH infrastructures to protect water points from flooding and guard household latrines against collapsing. UNICEF, in partnership with Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) in Akobo and Oxfam in Pibor, provided emergency WASH services targeting 134,500 individuals by successfully constructing flood resilient borehole platforms and household latrines.

Access to safe water and sanitation facilities is a preventive measure for malnutrition by curbing diarrheal diseases. This program worked with communities to construct latrines and repair broken water points in addition to promoting safe hygiene and sanitation behaviours. UNICEF introduced elevated and protected infrastructure as a mitigation to the repeated flooding. 

Flood resilient borehole platform in Nyandit village.

“I am very happy for new borehole platforms constructed here in Akobo East. It is completely different. The stairs, guardrails and handrails are really helpful because it supports us in going up and coming down with our water cans, making it accessible to everyone in the community, even the elderly ones. Goats cannot get our water because of the raised platform. They drink from the drainage which is far. This borehole used [to] get flooded during the rainy season and [was] difficult to access. We used to drink water from the swamp which made my children sick.” Nyajouk Char, Chan Village resident.

Flood resilient rehabilitated borehole platform in Walgak village.

“Around 150-200 households are fetching water from this borehole. Managing people was not easy in the previous design because the borehole was not fenced and people enter to collect water from all directions. This new design is the best because there is only one way up and down [the stairs] so we can easily manage the water users by standing at the entrance. I am encouraging UNICEF and PAH to construct more flood resilient platforms in areas that flood. We are lucky that it started with us, our suffering is over now,” said Nyawech Pey of the Chan Village Water Committee.

Flood resilient latrine construction.

“I never understood the dangers of open defecation until the day PAH hygiene promoters visited my house; this is what I and my five children used to face. I remember the hygiene promoters showed us a diagram showing different ways how we [might accidentally] eat our own feces, through contaminated water and food when we practice open defecation. It was on this day that I understood the importance of using [a] latrine.” Elizabeth Yai Yul, Bilkey payam resident.

Local materials are used for flood resilient latrine construction.
Local materials are used for flood resilient latrine construction.

"When they were constructing the sample latrines, they were using local materials but were waiting for plastic slabs from organizations. I don’t think any member of the community wishes to continue eating another person’s feces. I immediately told my elder son to dig pit latrine and I called the Sanitation Committee to help me line and cover the pit, which was the hardest part. It was not easy to get some of the local materials due to insecurity in our area. I thank PAH for the support they gave us by covering the cost of buying some of the material. Due to the nature of our soil texture, latrines used to collapse during [the] rainy season. “We are now happy because we no longer go to the bush to defecate where there are snakes, insecurity and mosquitos. Above all, it’s hard to go to the bush during [the] rainy season and at night hours. We now have privacy with a latrine easily accessible during night hours,’’ said Elizabeth.          

Based on the success of this program and the future flood predictions due to climate change, UNICEF will continue to install and upgrade flood resilient facilities in Jonglei State and the rest of the country, thanks to the support of the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).