A Red Cross project in South Sudan is reducing the burden of water collection for thousands of women and girls.

By Corrie Butler, IFRC

Water and sanitation is a basic human right for all. Yet, the UN Report on Clean Water and Sanitation suggests water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population. In countries like South Sudan water and sanitation-related diseases are among the top killers of children under five, even though they are completely preventable.

Six-year-old, Mary, reaches for the water pump handle well above her head to fill her large jerry can with water. In one practiced motion, she hoists the jerry can onto her head, balancing it without her hands.

With the help of the South Sudan Red Cross, Mary and more than 500 members of her community have access to clean, drinking water. Mary and her neighbours used to fetch dirty water from a stream a half hour walk away. Now, clean water is on her doorstep.

“The stream was making us sick,” says Victoria Richard, another villager. “In rainy season, the water would get even more dirty and when it was dry, there would be no water at all.”

“Now that we have this borehole, we’re closer to clean water.”

Long distance work

The responsibility of fetching water traditionally falls to women and children in rural South Sudan. They often have to venture far distances on foot at least three times a day.

Michael Charles, Head of Country Office for the IFRC said water can quickly become a major concern for a community. “We see that more than 90 per cent of the people fetching water is women and girls who must travel long distances,” he said. “We’re here through the power of our volunteer network to help bring water closer to the communities and ensure that women and their families are healthier and safe.”

Better access to safe water globally gives women and girls more opportunity to work or go to school.

With the support of the Government of Japan, the South Sudan Red Cross is reaching thousands of families who now have access to clean drinking water in this region with many more using safer health, sanitation and hygiene practices that keep their families safe and healthy.

See more about World Water Day.