The water tankers of Juba - more than a thousand of them - are a daily feature of the city and its environs, supplying much needed potable water for the residents, but at a higher cost, as overheads continue to rise, pushing up consumer charges.
The lack of safe water means residents are also at risk to the spread of illnesses such as diarrhea and cholera, making children, especially, vulnerable to waterborne diseases, and worsening the already poor nutrition crisis.
South Sudan is a country in crisis, following a political violence that has displaced millions of people and led to severe food shortages amid a deteriorating economy that has left many families with no livelihood
A water crisis, aggravated by political conflict and a weakening economy, is just one more challenge families in the capital Juba have to face on a daily basis.
In 2015, it was estimated that only 20%t of Juba residents had access to municipal water operated by South Sudan Urban Water Corporation (SSUWC), the public water utility, mainly through a small piped network and boreholes. That number is likely to have dropped further, following the eruption of violence in the city in 2016. Nationwide, it is estimated that more than half of all water systems have either been damaged or destroyed in the violence.
For those without municipal access, water is mostly provided by private water trucking operators, whose source of supply is the White Nile (Bahr El Jebel River), a tributary of the Nile River. Often, water from these vendors is untreated, yet expensive and the most source of hygiene related diseases.
Luka Wani and his nephew Lado, an orphan, who lost his father during the conflict, operate a water pump, selling raw water to tanker operators every morning before school. Beginning 6 am each morning, the boys fill bottles with chlorine for the water trucks. For a full day’s work, they get paid 300 SSP each (around $1) which helps them buy food and school supplies. “I want to be an Engineer when I grow up,” says Lado, as he threw a bottle of chlorine on one of the trucks.
The African Development Bank has stepped in to help the country deal with the worsening water and sanitation situation. On Thursday, 4 July 2019, the Bank signed off $24.7 million in grants with the Government of South Sudan to promote urban, peri-urban and rural water and sanitation development in Juba and its immediate environs. This project titled “Sustainable Water and Sanitation Project” for the people of Juba, has been approved and grant agreements were signed by the Minister of Finance and Planning Salvatore Garang Mabior and Benedict Kanu, Country Manager of the Bank in South Sudan.
When completed, the project will directly benefit over 300,000 people in Juba and some eight rural communities within Jubek state. About Euro 2 million in grants contribution to the project from the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI) will be used to construct rural water and sanitation facilities for about 40 public Schools, rural health centres and related communities. The amount will also cover hygiene education activities for the residents.
“The consistent support received by the water and sanitation Sector, will go a long way in helping to advance the government’s human development efforts,” Minister Mabior said.
On his part, Kanu Kanu noted that the Strategic Water and Sanitation Improvement Project, for which the grant was awarded, also entails the rehabilitation of about 50km of Juba town distribution network and related works, including metering and public water collections outlets. The grant also covers feasibility and engineering design for two other towns, the building of solar powered water distribution systems and to promote sanitation and hygiene in high-density rural communities around Juba.
Sophia Pal Gai, South Sudan’s Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, whose ministry will execute the project, highlighted the Bank’s support to the country’s revitalized Peace Agreement. “Forgiveness, reconciliation and stability of our nation will be guaranteed if we all continue to have increased access to our basic human needs,” she said.
Overall, about 67% of the population of South Sudan has access to improved drinking water sources with only 13% having access to adequate sanitation facilities.
Civil war first broke out in South Sudan in late 2013, creating one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world with around 4 million people said to be displaced internally.