Sudan’s Water Crisis Continues: Hope for Change is Near

March 2, 2011 – Jen Noelken

Sudan’s lack of clean drinking water is no secret.  Only 37 percent of the country’s people have access to life’s necessity.  Drinking water is only one facet to the dire need for water.  Lack of water means Sudanese people struggle to grow enough food to feed their family, put their health at risk and research has shown clean drinking water has a direct correlation to education.  Though all of Sudan is in a water crisis, the country’s ever present war against itself and the south’s recent succession from the north has left Southern Sudan’s condition particularly grim.

Southern Sudan’s landscape offers mostly desert with temperatures during the dry season reaching an unbearable 120 degrees.  With 80 percent of Sudanese people working in agriculture, 97 percent of water use goes to farming.  Farmers provide the backbone for Sudan’s livelihood, supplying food for individual families and whole communities.  While farmers provide the country’s agricultural backbone, women and children spend their days traveling to water sources. 

Scarcity of available clean water has the most effect on village women.  Contaminated drinking water is the only available fluid for 12.3 million people.  Estimates in Sudan place available water for domestic use at 2 percent.  Women spend a great deal of time traveling to distant sources to gather water.  Time spent traveling is time lost on other domestic duties.  More so, the journey can be dangerous marked with rough terrain and aggressive predators.

Contaminated drinking water carries a plethora of diseases including diarrhea, Cholera, hepatitis E. and Guinea Worm Disease (also known as Dracunculiasis).  Sudanese highest risk of infection is Guinea Worm Disease (GWD), a debilitating and painful infection caused by a large roundworm.  Sudan has particular high outbreaks of the disease.  A 1999 report from the World Health Organization found two-thirds of GWD were from Sudan.  More current research suggests every three out of five Sudanese is infected. 

Sudan accesses some of the governmentally unregulated Nile River Basin water and uses accessible underground water shared with surrounding countries such as Egypt and Ethiopia.  Lack of sufficient amounts of water creates tension between the countries; termed water stress by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).   The label water stress is placed on any conflict, be it political or economical, created from lack of water.  At the heart of Africa’s suffering population is Sudan.

Conflicts in the country do not help what already is called a water crisis.  Focus of fighting between the north Muslim Arabs and the south Christian and animist Africans forefront the world’s view of Sudan.  Civil war has raged since 1966, with at least 2 million Sudanese killed and another four million losing all sense of home.  With no more than 7 percent of arable land in Sudan, researchers acknowledge the already scarcity of water will only become worse.

According to Discovery Health, a person in hot weather can dehydrate within an hour of not drinking water.  A child can die within that hour.  Adults can lose up to 1.5 liters of fluids through sweat alone, than lose more through urine, feces, and breathing.  Water is essential to cool the body’s core temperature preventing heat stroke.  A healthy adult in mild temperatures, not exerting energy will survive for less than a week.

Comprehensive knowledge of anatomy is not needed to understand clean water is vital for survival.  Two worthy non-profit organizations are working to give Sudan the clean drinking sources needed to sustain their livelihood.

The Water Project works in five countries bringing access to clean drinking water by funding water wells and proper sanitation efforts.  Placed in village schools or churches, The Water Project hopes to replace reliance on open drinking holes and streams with wells.  More than just digging a hole, the non-profit organization surveys the area, trains villagers in sanitation and pump repair and establishes a village water committee to oversee the well’s use and maintenance.  The project will also provide regular check-ups to ensure proper use and assess any maintenance needs.

Similarly, the non-profit group, Water for Sudan, is working to build water pumps in remote areas of Sudan.  President of the project, one of the famed lost boys of Sudan, Salva Dut, aims to make sure water distribution is fair.  Before pumps are built village elders discuss how water will be distributed and voice opinions on any issue of importance.  The pumps are maintained completely by the village.  Started in 2005, Water for Sudan has raised close to $2 million and built 85 wells in Southern Sudan.  Hopes are high for another 20 pumps to be completed in the next six months.    

Water is a basic need so often taken for granted.  Developed countries turn a faucet or open a fridge with barely a thought of water not being available.  Next time you take a drink of water, consider Sudan and other areas like Sudan.  A clean sip of water takes on new meaning.  

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