If you take care of it, it will keep on giving.

The first water point in the IDP camp in Bentiu is still critical for children's health

Helene Sandbu Ryeng
A woman is fetching water from a water point
10 March 2020

The construction itself doesn’t blow your mind at first site, yet continue to deliver impressive results six years later.

Let’s go back to 2013 and 2014. The rapid outbreak of conflict in South Sudan, including Unity state, and the reoccurring attacks, made people rush to the Protection of Civilian (PoC) Sites within the UN’s premises. In the Bentiu PoC alone, 12,000 had gathered by 22 April 2014. The area was not prepared to accommodate such a large number of people and addressing the lack of water become the most urgent priority in addition to people’s safety.

“I remember we had to go outside the PoC to get water. We were scared. Not only to be hit by bullets, but that we were bring diseases with us in the bucket,” says Awisof Divid Dobbol a mother of seven. She took her family and fled after the first round of violence in Bentiu.

A woman fetching water at a water point
Awisof Divid Dobbol a mother of seven is fetching water at the water kiosk in block 8

The water was fetched from ponds nearby. The bravest ones would go all the way to the river. Regardless, the water was filled with bacteria.

“We were sick all the time. The children had diarrhoea, the adults had diarrhoea” she says while stroking her belly in circles.

“We were all sick,” Angelina Nyakuma says. She also lives in sector one, the oldest part of the PoC. “And soon, I got pregnant.”

The situation was critical. Thousands of people living in a congested area without access to safe water is like begging for disease outbreaks. UNICEF, with support from the Government of Japan, decided to drill for water, and this became the first water point inside the Bentiu PoC.

A woman carrying a jerrycan on her head
Angelina Nyakuma carrying water to her home from the water kiosk

March 2020: The generator is growling underneath an iron sheet roof, giving life to the water pumps. From the drilling hole, which is covered by a cement slab, the water is purified before it is pumped up to a tall water tower. From here, gravity is pushing the water to the communities with such a force that Albert Einstein would be proud. One school, one health facility and nine water kiosks benefit from the water point, including block 8.

 “I need water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. I have seven kids remember, keeping them clean is no easy feat,” Awisof chuckles. “Imagine living with a newborn and no water,” Angelina adds after filling her two jerrycans. She normally fetches two every morning and two later in the evening.

Bentiu PoC
Bentiu PoC in the morning when the women are fetching water.

“We are now ok, we don’t see diseases such as diarrhoea that often anymore,” Nyalel Jor, a mother of three says. “The only issue is that sometimes there is not enough, and we have to stand in line to fetch water,” she adds. “Yes, but that has turned this water kiosk to the grapevine in block 8, this is where you get all the news,” Awisof laughs.

The Government of Japan has kept supporting the UNICEF water programme in Unity by providing funding for the necessary chemicals and fuel for the generator. Six years after it was established, it is still quenching people’s thirst in the dirty heat and keeping children in the PoC healthy.

A woman carrying a bucket on her head
Nyalel Jor is carrying water to her home, which is about 150 meter from the water kiosk.