Providing clean water is the number one solution to health problems. Through a unique partnership between CASS and the Water School, the availability of clean water is rapidly expanding and creating unique opportunities to move forward.
In September of 2007, CASS officials met with Bob Dell, President of the Water School – a meeting that proved to be fortuitous. The meeting was arranged by Alex Lau, a long-time CASS supporter. Knowing of our concern about water in Aweil East, Alex had learned of the success in Uganda of the Water School and wondered why our two organizations couldn’t work together.
Since then, CASS has cooperated with the Water School as a means of providing more hope to the region. CASS will continue to leverage the expertise provided by The Water School to further expand the SODIS clean water program in Sudan. Check out the Water School at www.thewaterschool.org.
Slightly over 80% of the diseases in the region are water-borne, and with all the new arrivals flooding into the region as a result of peace and the creation of the independent Republic of South Sudan, the need for affordable and effective ways of providing clean water has become paramount. In this area of South Sudan, people travel kilometres to collect water from rivers and watering holes that are shared with livestock and contaminated by surface run-off. Drinking this water results in chronic illnesses such as dysentery, intestinal cramps, typhoid fever and even Hepatitis A.
Boiling water can be of help, but the lack of firewood in the Aweil East region makes it difficult to do consistently, and the time it takes to collect firewood reduces the time that children can be in school. The remoteness of the Aweil East region and lack of reliable electricity means that drilled wells are very expensive and difficult to implement.
In Uganda, the Water School discovered that unsafe water and poor sanitation are responsible for half of the deaths in children under five – the equivalent of one child dying every 15 seconds. Even more common is the fact that school children will miss many days of school due to stomach illnesses and diarrhea, which continues to perpetuate the cycle of poor literacy and poverty.
How does it work?
SODIS – Solar Water Disinfection – spells new life and better health for the people of the Aweil East region of South Sudan. Simply stated, SODIS refers to the process of utilizing the sun’s ultraviolet rays to clean what was once polluted water. It’s a remarkable and natural technology that is all the more effective for its simplicity. Bob Dell’s passion is easy to see. “We can be saving lives through the sun,” he stated.
Water is placed in clear plastic bottles, which are in turn placed on above-ground corrugated metal shelves, and then left out in the hot Sudanese sun for a day. The sun’s ultra-violet rays purify the water during that period, effectively killing all disease causing organisms and leaving the bottled water perfectly fit to drink – a simple, life-saving process.
The concept is also environmentally friendly since there is no need to use firewood by cutting down trees. Children can use it without fear of getting hurt by fire or boiling water. And once the bottles become too scratched to permit the sun’s rays to do their magical work, they can be used for other tasks such as transporting cooking oil or storing sugar.
The SODIS knowledge has now been around for over 20 years and has demonstrated dramatic results where it has been implemented properly. In 2005, over 2 million children died because they could not get a glass of clean water. The Water School is now changing that dynamic
Challenges Implementing SODIS in South Sudan
There continue to be particular challenges to implementing the SODIS system effectively in the Aweil East region. An ongoing challenge is the remoteness and the expense of transport over large distances. Also the overall level of education and the sanitary conditions pose a challenge. A typical living compound in this area will often have no latrines, and not even any soap for basic handwashing and cleaning. As a result implementing the SODIS system also requires instruction on basic hygiene and sanitation – for example, how to ensure that the purified water does not become re-contaminated. The Water School has produced manuals for training on SODIS and hygiene, but due to the high illiteracy rates in the region the manual was difficult to use. The CASS group has addressed this challenge by re-doing the manuals to be based on pictorial instructions. Also there is a level of skepticism that needs to be overcome, as many of the people need convincing proof that the SODIS regime will actually clean the water of most harmful pathogens.
CASS has hired a field officer to work in the region, training people and following up with families using the system on a regular basis, and reporting results to CASS volunteers in Canada. The field Officer also has a digital camera (donated by the Forest City Image Centre) that is used to document the families using the SODIS system. This position has it’s own challenges, however:
- no cold storage for petri film
- donated computer, with limited internet access
- no form of transportation
- just visiting 4 families may take all day, e.g. Periac is 1 hour walk away
Maria Adut, Gordhim: She has continued using her table since Jan 2010. Even though her table was broken she made her own to continue practicing SODIS. When she needed to be away from home for an extended period, her daughter continued to use SODIS. Her household has no latrine, and no soap, which makes the disinfection of their drinking water even more critical.
Young mother of 4 in Periac: Had not been visited for some time, but had been practicing SODIS on her own. Her compound was clean, she has a latrine, and she was very grateful to TWS to have clean water. She reported that her children were significantly healthier over the last year, with less incidence of diarrhea.
Progress made in 2011:
- The women’s centre, consisting of 33 women, will practice SODIS and share with their families.
- The Medical Centre is practicing SODIS and using water for patients
- Outreach workers practicing SODIS with their clients
- Families already successfully using SODIS will be secondary teachers for new families waiting to start the program
When the United Nation’s Human Development Report for 2006 was published, it contained the following quote:
“The most effective vaccine against Child death in Africa is a glass of clean water.”
The Water School has understood this challenge and sought to meet it by applying the SODIS project to Kenya and Uganda. And now the organization will be spreading its effective influence through partnership with CASS in South Sudan. We are thrilled with the prospects. But for the project to be successful we require two things.
The first is a broad-based educational program designed to help the local Sudanese run the program effectively. CASS has asked Alex Lau to head up the operation for us and he has already been highly effective. A financial investor, Alex knows how to put together a clear business plan and we are excited to support his efforts.
In addition to the Canadian volunteers, CASS has hired people in South Sudan to coordinate activities, train families, and monitor the program. The people involved in this are William Ater, as the CASS project coordinator and Program Officer for TWS, and Mark Kuot Yel, the Water School field Officer, hired in Jan 2011. Mark regularly visits the families that are practicing SODIS and reports monthly to CASS volunteers in Canada.
And the second thing needed is YOU. To its other programs of school building, women’s microenterprises, Abuk’s Herd and assistance for Darfur refugees, CASS must now add this new dimension. We have no other choice, really – the emerging water crisis in that entire region of Africa demands that we develop an effective response. And here are some numbers that show just exactly how you can make a key influence in the region where CASS is working.
$50 – to provide clean water for a family of 5
$500 – provides for a cluster of 10 families
$5,000 – provides for an entire village
$50 to help a family get clean water for a year – It’s all so simple really and all it requires is your help. Canadian Aid for South Sudan is a 100% volunteer organization and all money contributed goes directly to programs such as this.