Drilling for water in remote places

In Ulang, South Sudan, a Medair Emergency Response Team (ERT) is currently doing a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) intervention in Ulang County assisting the host community and Internally Displaced People (IDP). MAF recently flew a ton of equipment to the team – primarily tools for manual drilling of water points, well supplies, piping and a water pump – plus a lot of food for the 5-member Medair team who had been eating only rice for two and a half days.

The team is drilling boreholes with manual drilling equipment, installing handpumps and conducting hygiene promotion and training. Once completed, the team will train mechanics to maintain and repair the handpumps.

Being the first time MAF had flown to the Ulang airstrip, and since it is very old and lacks maintenance, Chris brought with him measuring equipment to conduct a survey of the field in order to assess if it is a safe airfield to open up for more MAF flights to Ulang. After offloading the Cessna Caravan Chris walked through the airfield with a measuring wheel and noted a length of 800 m of surface that is safe for landing and taking off with the aircrafts that MAF uses in South Sudan.

Assisting in an unsafe area

The area itself is not altogether safe. Not more than 30 km away is the town of Nasir from where many of the IDPs who are now in Ulang have been fleeing since February this year. Nasir has become a place where the opposition and government armed forces have clashed several times, fighting for territory. Other IDPs are predominantly from the former Jonglei state, south of Ulang.

“If I fly over Nasir I will be shot at!” Chris exclaimed before taking off from Juba. Both MAF and Medair have very robust security protocols, and Medair will pull out their team in Ulang if need be.

Interventions are carefully planned

Every ERT intervention requires a lot of work. Areas are prioritised by OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).

Medair is planning to drill boreholes in several affected villages along the Sobat River. For now, they succeeded in installing two new water points in two villages. The people in these villages were drinking water straight from the river and swamps. Now they are very happy that they have access to clean drinking water.

WASH manager, Annegreet, who assists with the drilling and hygiene messaging explains: “We originally did a WASH and Non Food Item (NFI) response in Ulang at the beginning of the year. First we did an assessment to determine the needs, before we followed with an intervention. Six weeks ago the WASH team returned to do additional manual drilling, and we are currently working on the third handpump. The manual drilling method enables us to work in far and remote places, as it can be transported easily and it is quick and effective. Of course we are still having a lot of challenges. It is always very encouraging to work with partners like MAF who have the same vision and are also praying for our work. That gives all of us hope and courage to continue serving the people in need together!”

Text: Thorkild Jørgensen.
Photos: Chris Ball.

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