New climate resilient facilities help prevent malnutrition in Jonglei State
UNICEF provides access to clean water before, during and after the floods
The people of South Sudan have been hit by devastating floods for the last three years, and Jonglei State in the north has been one of the most affected. Nearly 300,000 people have been impacted in Jonglei state alone forcing them from their homes. The flooding has upended and destroyed basic livelihoods, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure was damaged, submerged or destroyed.
The impact of flooding has severely impacted WASH services for women and children. Many have not had access to basic safe water and more than 60 people are using one latrine in some of these flood-affected and food insecure counties.
As safe water points have become submerged, most people have resorted to using unsafe stagnant water and unsafe sanitation practices which has resulted in poor hygiene habits and high levels of open defecation. This exposes children to water borne diseases and increases their vulnerability to malnutrition.
Due to the flooding, many communities in these areas were forced to move from their homesteads in search of safer ground, away from the water. The floods destroy crops and submerge grazing areas for cattle and livestock, compounding the food insecurity of these communities and resulting in high rates of malnutrition among children. The counties of Pibor, Akobo, Bor South, Ayod, Twic East and Duk in Jonglei State are some of most affected by the flooding even during the dry season, due to the impact of climate change.
In mid-2021, UNICEF scaled up WASH activities in prioritized food insecure counties with financing from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), and designed climate resilient WASH infrastructure to protect water points from flooding and guard household latrines from collapsing.
I am very happy with the 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 by everyone in the community, even the elderly.
“This borehole used to get flooded during the rainy season and was difficult to access. We used to drink water from swamp which made my children sick.” she said
In partnership with Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) in Akobo County and with Oxfam in Pibor County, UNICEF and partners provided emergency WASH services, including flood resilient borehole platforms and household latrines reaching 134,500 people.
Nyawech Pey, a member of Chan Borehole Water Committee said an estimated 150-200 households gets their water from the borehole he was standing next to. “This new design is really good because there is only one way up and down so we can easily manage the water users by standing at the entrance. The previous design required fencing, but this new design is already fenced. I hope UNICEF can construct more flood resilient platforms in our communities,” he said.
Access to safe water and sanitation facilities helps lower malnutrition in children, through prevention of diarrheal diseases. Therefore, UNICEF introduced elevated and protected infrastructure as a mitigation measure against the repeated flooding. This programme has supported communities to construct latrines and repair broken water points, in addition to promotion of safe hygiene and sanitation behaviors.
“I never understood the dangers of open defecation until the day hygiene promoters visited my house and spoke to me and my five children. The hygiene promoters showed us a diagram of different ways how we were being exposed to our own feces, through contaminated water and food when we practice open defecation. That was when I understood the importance of building and using latrines,” said Elizabeth Yai Yul resident of Bilkey Payam standing outside her latrine.
Elisabeth got her sons to help her dig the pit latrine and she called the Sanitation Committee to help her to line the pit with locally made materials. She also received support to cover some of the costs for materials they needed.
“Due to the nature of the soil, latrines used to collapse during rainy season. Now, even in the middle of the rainy season, my latrine has no water inside and we don’t have to go to the bush to defecate where it is not safe and there are there are snakes and mosquitos. We have privacy with our latrine which is easily accessible even at night. We are happy and healthy in our home,’’ she said.
Based on the success of this programme and the future frequency and severity of floods 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).