AN URGENT appeal for clean water needed by more than 35,000 people in South Sudan was launched by the charity Samaritan’s Purse last week.
The charity plans to rehabilitate and install 79 wells in Unity State, which is one of the worst affected by the conflict that broke out in the country in 2013. Last month, the UN reported that its citizens had been subjected to a scorched-earth campaign by the army, backed by armed militia (News, 18 March). The report warned of “famine-like conditions” caused by cattle-raiding, looting, and the destruction of food stocks.
Samaritan’s Purse’s “Turn on the Tap” campaign seeks to install wells across Mayom and Abiemnom counties, which are home to about 55,000 internally displaced people. It reports that overcrowding and the over-use of clean water sources has led to the breakdown of one-third of existing hand-pump wells in some areas. The hope is that access to the wells will prevent women and girls having to travel long distances to collect water, and thus risking sexual assault. The aim is to raise £525,000 for this purpose by the end of June.
UNICEF estimates that almost a third of the population of South Sudan does not have access to clean drinking water. On Tuesday, the UN warned that 5.8 million people, or nearly half of the country’s population, were unsure where their next meal would come from. The monthly cost of food and clean water for an average family now amounts to ten times a teacher’s salary. Although 90 per cent of South Sudan’s land is arable, just 4.5 per cent was under cultivation when the country gained independence in 2011. This has decreased even further during the latest conflict, owing to insecurity, damage to assets, and limitations in traditional farming methods, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization reports.
Since the outbreak of violence in December 2013, about 2.3 million people have been displaced, including 1.69 million within South Sudan. The UN’s regional response, developed with partners, is just three-per-cent funded, it warned last week, which leaves many lifesaving commodities, including clean water, food, and shelter, “severely underfunded”. The rainy season, expected to begin in April, will leave much of the country inaccessible by road.