Piped water to IDP camp brings joy to families

A water treatment plant supported by KFW Development Bank will provide uninterrupted clean water to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Juba, South Sudan

By Robin Giri
A child peers over a flowing water tap
UNICEF South Sudan/2021/Rich
01 December 2021

Internally Displaced Persons Camp #3, Juba – The squealing of children rises above the huddle of shanties as we move through the camp. As we get closer, the shouts of “Piu” and “Moyo” become more audible – the Dinka and Arabic words for “water”!

Near the source of this screaming is a jumble of yellow – neatly arranged row-upon-row of 20-litre plastic jerrycans – around the water taps at one of three water points in Camp #3 on the outskirts of Juba. Dozens of women and the children stand around, pointing at the water gushing out of the taps as they wait their turns to fill up.

A crowd of people filling water into jerrycans
UNICEF South Sudan/2021/Rich
Children and women huddle around the water point in the IDP camp number 3 on the outskirts of Juba.

Water is a precious commodity in this camp, which on last count, housed more than 30,000 civilians. This camp was set up by the United Nations Mission to South Sudan in 2013 to protect civilians who fled the fighting in Juba and its surrounding areas. Due to the continued insecurity and lack of economic opportunities outside the camp, most families stayed put. There is no source of clean water in the camp other than what is trucked in every day by UNICEF since 2013.

“At the minimum I need at least six jerrycans of water every day (120 litres) to meet our cooking and cleaning needs,” says 26-year-old Alice Abalo. Alice has four children aged six to four months, and an additional four other adult males who share the tiny two-roomed home. Most days, she can get only four jerrycans of water from the water trucks, where the water is rationed.

“I have to buy at least four more jerrycans from the private water vendor at 100 South Sudanese Pounds (appr 25 US cent) - per jerrycan,” she says.  This is a considerable sum for populations in these vulnerable locations.

Women carrying jerrycans of water
UNICEF South Sudan/2021/Rich
Alice (left) and Angelina carrying water home from the pump.

Angelina Simon, 27, shares a similar story. She has three children aged between four years and 11, and other adult relatives living with her. She too must buy water just to meet their daily needs. “Some days, I spend half the day in the bush collecting firewood to sell so that I can use that money to buy the water,” says Angelina.

All of this is slated to change for these women and the thousands of others in similar IDP camps in this area. They will benefit from the UNICEF supported urban water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programme, which is supported by the Government of Germany through the KFW Development Bank.

The Juba pipeline construction project is now complete and in the testing phase, which takes water from the Nile River and transports it to the water treatment plant more than one kilometre away. After the water is treated and disinfected, it is then pumped almost four kilometres uphill to the reservoir tank up in the Jebel mountains, which has a storage capacity of 900,000 litres. And from here the water is distributed by a gravity led system to the targeted communities in the IDP sites as well as to some of the most vulnerable communities in Juba.

At full capacity, this water treatment plant will process 4.65 million litres of water per day and will provide water to 100,000 beneficiaries in Juba, which also includes the 30,000 inhabitants of IDP camps 1 and 3.

“This will change our lives and I can’t imagine how much money I will save,” says Angelina holding her son on her lap. “At least I will not have to go and collect firewood everyday just to buy water.”

Alice is even more excited about when the water system will start operating and the constant supply of water during the days. “I wish the water supply will start full time soon, and then I don’t have to spend so much of my hard-earned money buying water,” she says patting her children in front of the little kiosk which she owns in front of her small home.

A woman and three small children posed at the edge of a market stall
UNICEF South Sudan/2021/Rich
Alice Abalo at her small shop which helps to supplement their income.

Improved access to clean water has multiple benefits. It will contribute to improved hygiene and sanitation, which is intricately linked to improved health and nutrition outcomes for children.  Improved health of children will lead to increased attendance in school and improved educational outcomes, and access to water and sanitation will enable communities to undertake more informed prevention measures against COVID-19.

UNICEF is working with the kiosk operators in the camps to provide water using a voucher program where residents will redeem digital vouchers for water.  Once the system is rolled out residents will receive their water from the kiosks until the site transitions to residents paying for the water at a standardized rate which will be much lower than what is currently being paid to private trucking vendors.

UNICEF thanks the KFW Development Bank for its generous support for UNICEF’s Urban WASH programme, which enables it to provide lifesaving water to vulnerable populations in South Sudan.