07 Oct 2020
By: Nabie Loyce

Chants of cheers on a sunny Saturday morning in Hai Baraka, just on the outskirts of South Sudan’s capital city, Juba. 

The people of Hai Baraka are celebrating the official inauguration of a water yard constructed by the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) unit, marking a new chapter for the community. 

Years of lack of access to safe drinking water in the vicinity of the community brought an amplitude of problems; women and girls being the most affected as they are disproportionately exposed to the risk of gender-based violence as they find themselves having to walk long distances to fetch water for their households.

IOM’s WASH Operations Officer, Juliette de Gaultier explains how the water yard system works to community leaders. Achuoth Philip Deng/IOM2020

Linked to poor sanitation and contaminated water sources that the community relied on, water borne diseases was also an eventuality for most families. 
“This water system has come at the right time especially since the dry season is fast approaching,” says 38-year-old Ester Kenneth, a resident of Hai Baraka and the Women’s Representative in the community. “Getting water has been very difficult for us.”

“We used to fetch water from a stream which is a 30-minute walk from here or we had to buy water from the trucks which we could not afford,” adds the mother of four. 

In 2018, following an assessment which showed that Hai Baraka did not have any existing boreholes or safe sources for water, IOM’s WASH team set out to drill boreholes in the area.

The complex geology of the area led to IOM striking groundwater in only one of the 4 boreholes drilled. 

The hybrid solar system water Yard in Hai Baraka. Achuoth Philip Deng/IOM2020

As expected, this did not meet the needs of the community. 

“We faced a lot of challenges when drilling the boreholes – the ground too hard and geology not favorable to encounter groundwater,” says IOM’s WASH Operations Officer, Juliette de Gaultier Laguionie. “But that did not deter us, the people of Hai Baraka needed water and our team was determined to respond to this need.”

In order to meet the high demand and assist a larger proportion of the population, IOM’s WASH team upgraded the borehole to a larger scale infrastructure. The work which started in July 2020 was completed in August. 

“When the borehole was built, it eased our problems because we had access to safe water nearby and we saw a great reduction in the number of sicknesses in our community,” says Ester Kenneth. “Before, diseases like malaria, diarrhea, cholera were very common here,” she says.

Prior to the upgrade into a water yard, the long waiting time at the handpump, sometimes up to 4 hours, “triggered domestic violence in many homes” as many women would be questioned by their partners about their whereabouts explains Ester. 

The water yard, a fully autonomous hybrid solar system powered by ten solar panels of 150 Watts and feeding into two tanks capable of holding 5,000 litres each, is comprised of a 6-meter water tower and two water points, both accessible to persons with disabilities and can deliver up to 25,000L of water per day. 

“The distribution points can provide safe drinking water to more than 1,300 residents a day,” adds de Gaultier Laguionie.

Some of the Water Management Committee members pose for a photo with the community leaders and a team from IOM. Achuoth Philip Deng/IOM2020

Following the construction of the water yard, five members of the community were elected as the Water Management Committee (WMC) to oversee the operations and maintenance of the facility on behalf of the community. Members of the committee were trained on setting by-laws, organizing community meetings, collecting and accounting of user fees, operations and maintenance as well as other areas.

This project is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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