South Sudan: Surviving upsurge in violence and keeping safe from cholera

17 August 2016
South Sudan: Surviving upsurge in violence and keeping safe from cholera
A South Sudan Red Cross volunteer trained by the ICRC prepares chemicals to treat water and make it fit for human consumption. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Alyona Synenko

The July outbreak of violence in Juba forced people to flee their homes. Scores were injured or killed. Looting and insecurity hampered economic activity, causing prices to soar and making basic goods inaccessible to many. At the same time, the new outbreak of cholera is proving to be another challenge people are struggling to overcome.

How does armed conflict affect access to clean drinking to water for people in Juba?

In Juba the water distribution network does not reach all areas and the population relies heavily on water delivered by commercial tankers. Because of the lack of security some areas are difficult to access, so water supplies have become irregular. When violence broke out, many fled their homes. For the displaced people it is very difficult to access the most basic services. Destruction and looting also take their toll on the already weak infrastructure. Some water tanks used for storage were hit by bullets, while others were stolen.

How does the lack of water affect public health?

A lack of clean water leads to an increase in water-borne diseases like cholera. Some 1,000 cases have already been reported in the current outbreak. Without water, people can't maintain proper hygiene, which also has a negative impact on health. Hospitals and clinics without a reliable supply of clean water cannot function.

How is the ICRC helping people in this situation?

Immediately after the beginning of the clashes, we activated an emergency water treatment plant in Lologo and started producing clean water and delivering it to displacement sites and to health facilities. The events in Juba coincided with a new cholera outbreak. Such outbreaks happen every year. The ICRC water treatment plant is now producing over 400,000 litres of clean drinking water per day, a vital lifeline that helps counter the spread of cholera.

We also installed water distribution points in cholera prone areas around Juba. We work closely with the South Sudan Red Cross, whose volunteers help run the plant and the distribution points. They also visit homes door to door and tell people to wash hands and use only clean water to prevent the spread of the disease.