First off, we apologize. Here we are, working away, keeping quiet tabs on the escalating violence in our first and most important country of operations: South Sudan.
We’ve been discrete about the conflict - silent, really - hoping that this latest series of attacks will settle into something resembling peace. It hasn’t, and it’s time we updated you on where things stand.
South Sudan achieved it’s independence last July, after 50 years of intractable war with its neighbor to the North.
The 2005 peace agreement (CPA) that paved the way for S. Sudanese independence was a true breakthrough in the conflict. Like any document, however, it’s scope is limited, and it failed to prove strong enough to resolve every aspect of the dispute… namely the ownership or independence of several border regions (including South Kordofan and Blue Nile State) and their oil deposits.
After battling for the oil-rich town of Heglig early last week, Sudan (which has since claimed control of the town) bombed South Sudanese territory killing 16 civilians. With increased violence in border regions, new cross-border incursions, and increasingly violent threats by both of the country’s leaders… Juba and Khartoum are moving steadily closer to outright war.
So what does this mean for human lives, especially where water is concerned?
First off, the recent violence is causing a crisis of internal migration.
Over 100,000 refugees have been displaced by recent violence in Sudan’s border states, (a crisis we took to Capitol Hill - and from there to the UN - last fall). In addition to deliberately targeting civilian installations, including schools, churches and water supplies, recent bombings and military strikes by Sudan have forced many to flee southward, where resource availability and human health are in grave danger.
In South Sudan’s refugee camps, aid agencies and humanitarian staff face a tragic paradox: there is too little water and too much all at once.
Last week, Oxfam warned the international community that boreholes are failing under the strain of increased use, and that in one particular camp (Jamam), residents face the immediate threat of water shortage. Pumps that are sufficient for 16,000 people (when fully-functional) simply can’t keep up with 35,000 new residents.
Refugees also face an urgent threat from Cholera: a water and food-borne disease contracted by ingesting human waste. Its presence is always linked to a water management problem, as Cholera can be easily avoided when proper sanitation and hygiene facilities (which require clean water) are in place. Heavy rains in South Sudan have spread Cholera throughout refugee camps there, and have made additional material aid undeliverable.
As the victims of regional violence thirst for clean water to drink, they’re forced to wade through inches of muddy water that makes them sick.
DigDeep is committed to defending the human right to water in South Sudan.
DigDeep already provides drinking water assistance to large residential and migrant populations in Sudan though our project partner, PPF. We’re doing our best to assess ways we can assist all of our partners through the current crisis. For now, we continue to commit resources and human rights-based planning assistance for water projects throughout South Sudan on schedule.
In recent months, we’ve also made some new friends at Parjana - a budding US tech firm devoted to safe and sustainable water drainage solutions. Cheap, innovative technologies like Parjana can be harnessed for field work in refugee camps to eradicate standing water - reducing the threat of diseases like Cholera and recharging the water table for consumption. We’re working on the best way to deliver and instill this new tech in the field.
If you would like to make a donation to an emergency water project in South Sudan, click the “donate” button or “give” box on our website. Simply place a note in the dialogue box designating your donation for emergency water relief in South Sudan. We’ll be happy to carefully track and disburse your funds to projects vetted by our partners and overseen by our staff.
Together, we can defend the human right to water. For you, for them, for the world.
photo credit: mmn.com “women gather at a dried-up water-point in Jamam”