24 Mar 2021
By: Nabie Loyce

Malakal –The people, the culture, and the fresh fish taken directly from River Nile (which runs through the town), make Malakal, South Sudan’s second largest city, a unique place. However, the city’s vibrancy was disrupted inn 2013 when fighting broke out in the town and the nearby villages (like Nagdiar), causing massive destruction of property and the displacement thousands of people from their homes.

Ogieth Amum, was among those forced to flee with their families travelling nearly 30 kilometres to seek safety. 

Ogieth fills a water tank to wash out dust from the solar panels that power the water treatment plant. IOM2020/Nabie LOYCE

“At that time, I was not married; I was staying with my father, mother and my siblings. We all decided to come to Malakal because the fighting had not yet reached the town,” Ogieth, who has a speech impairment, explains with the help of an interpreter. 

But this was never to last. Just before they could fully settle down in Malakal, fighting broke out. Ogieth and his family decided to go to Wau-Shilluk, a village just across the Nile.

While in Wau-Shilluk, life was normal for some four months.

Soon, fighting started again.

Ogieth and his family decided to go to the United Nations Protection of Civilians (PoC) site, the only place they felt safe, he says.

The family joined the thousands of people that were already living there.

Ogieth tells his story through the help of an interpreter. IOM2020/Nabie LOYCE

On arrival, a team from the International Organization for Migration’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (IOM DTM) biometrically registered Ogieth and his family, a registration that would allow them to receive humanitarian assistance from partners working in the protection site.

Still, Ogieth’s family could not depend only on the relief assistance provided by humanitarian organizations. They had to find ways to get other needs such as clothing.

Despite his speech impairment, Ogieth had no choice but to shoulder the responsibility of the family, becoming the breadwinner. He started doing causal work in and around the PoC site to fend for his family. His hard work and determination led him to IOM.

Ogieth washes the solar panels that power the water treatment plant in Malakal PoC site. IOM2020/Chiom Jal Dit CHOT

In 2015, Ogieth started working as a Water Trucking Assistant for IOM.

This job was the source of his joy.  Now, he was responsible for providing water to internally displaced persons (IDPs) like himself. With a job and a steady source of income, Ogieth decided to get married and start his own family. Within a year of their marriage, Ogieth and his wife got their first child.

Because water trucks regularly broke down, IOM installed a two-kilometer-long pipe from White Nile River to Malakal base together with a pumping and treatment system at intake area using Grundfos pumps in 2015. This made pumping water from the River cheaper and more reliable when compared to water trucking.

IOM is employing skilled members of the community like Ogieth into its WASH programs to make them more sustainable.

“When we stopped trucking water to the PoC, we recognized this young man’s potential to take up even more duties, so we decided to retain and train him in plumbing works. Ogieth is now a dedicated Plumbing Assistant and flows well with colleagues forming a good team. He is self-motivated, while taking pride in his work and a person of high integrity”, says Patrick Mutonga, IOM South Sudan WASH Officer.

An 11kilowatts pressure pump that uses a hybrid solar system to pump water to the treatment plant in Malakal PoC site. IOM2020/Nabie LOYCE

“I thought I was going to be jobless again when IOM stopped water trucking to the PoC site; but I am happy they decided to keep me here and train me to become a Plumbing Assistant. I did not have any knowledge as I do now; I was trained on safety usage of tools like hacksaw, wrench as well as pump repair works. With all the skills I have, I can fix and repair the pumps when they get damaged”, says Ogieth.

IOM continues to be the biggest provider of WASH services in Malakal PoC site, providing access to safe drinking water for the 29,868 individuals living in the PoC site. Currently the water supply system including treatment plant & distribution system in Malakal has forty-one Plumbing Assistants recruited and trained from the PoC community.

Ogieth and his colleagues fix a generator in preparation to wash the solar panels that power the treatment plant. IOM2020/Nabie LOYCE

“I am able to take care of my family with the incentives I get from my job; I also save some of the incentives because I have plans to go back to school. If not for the war, I would have completed my secondary school level of education by now. I am happy they chose me despite my speech impairment, now I feel useful to myself, my family and my community”, concludes Ogieth.

Ogieth hopes to one day leave the PoC site and return to his village to continue his life there.

The provision of safe drinking water to IDPs in Malakal is among the WASH activities supported by United States Agency for International Development (USAID), European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

This story was written by Nabie Loyce, IOM South Sudan Media and Communications Assistant.