“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” - W.H. Arden – Yet access to drinking water in South Sudan stands at only 50 per cent of the population due to ecological crises including water scarcity and desertification, making clean and safe water difficult to access. People living in urban areas, particularly in socially and economically deprived neighbourhoods, have been hit the hardest. One example is Juba, the largest city and capital of South Sudan, where the population depends mainly on trucked water.
13/12/2021 • 5 mins read
Water for Life - Making Clean Water Accessible
Noor Dalina Khalid
In our effort to create positive social impacts where we operate, PETRONAS has been championing access to clean water in South Sudan, joining hands with the national NGO Nile Hope to benefit the population by establishing the Water for Life programme since 2018.
Father-of-two John Akojo from South Sudan said that before the Water for Life programme was introduced in his neighbourhood, getting clean water for his family’s basic needs was a daily struggle. “To prepare water for drinking or cooking, we had to fetch untreated water at a water point, but the queues are long and most of the time the water supply runs out, leaving us with dirty, unsafe water,” he said.
He also shared how other people would often beg for water from neighbours because they could not afford the rising cost of purchasing clean water. Since the implementation of PETRONAS’ Water for Life programme, John observed that water points are becoming more common around Juba, enabling more South Sudanese families to finally experience life with access to clean water. John said he is not only thankful for the clean, potable water but for the sufficient supply of it too. Before the programme, John recalls spending almost half a day waiting for the water truck to arrive at his village or having to travel long distances just to purchase water.
“We no longer have to rely on untreated water or ration it for drinking or cooking. I can now take care of my family and see my children growing up healthily along with others in the community. We rely so much on the water here. There is nothing we can do without water,” said John, who shared a few acres of his land for the Water for Life programme to be set up for the benefit of his people.
In the last three years, the Water for Life programme has set up 15 water wells housed in water yards, benefitting approximately 87,000 people from 12 locations in Juba. PETRONAS’ easy-to-operate water wells are solar-powered and can produce up to 27,000 litres of safe drinking water per day.
"The Water for Life project introduces sustainable initiatives with a focus on community well-being and development by providing access to clean and safe water for local communities. It encompasses efforts to elevate the quality of health by increasing awareness on sanitation and safety," said PETRONAS South Sudan Operations Country Chairman, Peter Majid.
One of the water yards installed at the Juba Orphanage Home, for example, has seen improved health and sanitation among its residents, as access to clean water is no longer a daily struggle for them.
Mary Wasuk, a mother-of-three from Nyakuron West village, said gone were the days of travelling under the scorching heat for hours to collect clean water from a source, in buckets, especially when the water trucks did not arrive on time due to poor road conditions.
Mary also recalled the rigours of having to fetch water from distant water sources when she was pregnant with her first and second child. “It could take up to an hour or more just to access a clean water source. Sometimes I was forced to drink polluted water when the water trucks did not arrive, despite being pregnant. Thankfully when I was carrying my third child, the water yards were developed, and it only takes less than 30 minutes now to access clean water,” she added.
She no longer needs to wait in long queues and now has more time to focus on earning a living at the factory where she works.
“The Water for Life programme has given me hope that my children can grow up without worrying about the lack of clean water. My wish now is that they remain strong and healthy to continue with their schooling so that they have a better quality of life in the years to come,” said Mary.
UNICEF, also known as the United Nations Children’s Fund, acknowledges that untreated water puts people at risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea, which remain leading causes of death among children in South Sudan.
All PETRONAS’ Water for Life water yards are certified in the Sphere Handbook, a UNICEF Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response, for delivering safe drinking water exceeding its standards for excellence.
Echoing the health and sanitation concerns for his community, Mawa Moses, a community leader in Nyakuron West Area, Juba, shared that with the Water for Life programme, the women in his community feel much safer fetching water from the water yards, compared to the long journey they had to make in the past.
“With clean water, the first thing you notice is the reduction of illnesses especially among our children, as they are usually the most vulnerable to dirty water. Now, you see more smiling faces among our young ones, and our women can now have access to clean water easily, thanks to the Water for Life programme,” said Mawa.
According to Mawa, things have changed for the better. Beyond welfare, access to clean water has provided business and farming opportunities for people in Juba. Small coffee shops and micro-entrepreneurs are flourishing near the water yards as business owners can focus on their trade without the need to travel far to access clean water. There is also a variety of vegetables planted around the water yards, promoting agricultural initiatives within the community.
“The Water for Life programme has also become crucial in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. We have so far provided the prevention supplies like washable facemasks, soaps and sanitisers to children, teachers and social workers. We have also constructed handwashing facilities at schools and orphanages.”
Country Chairman, PETRONAS South Sudan Operations
The Water for Life programme goes beyond a simple corporate social responsibility programme. While spurring a life-changing impact for many, it has transformed Juba into a thriving town.
The programme also comes with another sustainability objective that is for each community to maintain the water yards themselves. South Sudanese NGO Nile Hope provides one-time training for the local community to impart the necessary technical knowledge for maintenance-related jobs. To date, the water yards from the first three phases are already managed by the communities while phase four is still under the Nile Hope maintenance period.