A Waterfall of Education in South Sudan

A Waterfall of Education in South Sudan

Deborah Nyantiok is 56 years old and lives with her grandchildren in Kaya, near the border of Uganda. She lost her husband during Sudan’s 20-year civil war and now takes care of her grandchildren. In order to pay for food and school fees, Deborah operates a small business and keeps animals to generate income. Despite her hard work, in the past Deborah found life difficult as she and her grandchildren often fell ill.

Lacking a source of clean drinking water, residents of Kaya gather drinking water from the nearby Kaya River. While the river provides vital irrigation which makes the surrounding land lush and green, unfortunately it also carries dangerous viruses and bacteria. These pathogens cause many waterborne ailments like typhoid, diarrhea, and parasitic diseases. Deborah and her grandchildren often suffered from these diseases, and while they sought medical treatment, it always seemed only a matter of time until their suffering returned.

One day one, Sarah, a community outreach officer (COO) from the Sudan Health Transformation Project (SHTP II), a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded project led by Management Sciences for Health, provided sanitation outreach where Deborah fetches water. Since the start of the project in 2009, SHTP II has disinfected more than 298 million liters of drinking water.

Sarah discussed with Deborah and other Kaya residents that treating their drinking water could prevent contracting many waterborne diseases. Sarah demonstrated proper techniques to treat water using both WaterGuard chlorine tablets and PUR packets, which disinfect 10 liters of water in one treatment, and are available in pharmacies in Kaya for 1SDG (about $0.30).

Three days later the same COO, Sarah, returned to conduct more outreach to the same area. Deborah was once more there, and after hearing Sarah speak again, she immediately rushed to buy the treatments. Her grandchildren complained water treated with WaterGuard smelled unpleasant, so Deborah began to use PUR sachets to treat their water. Since they began drinking treated water, neither she nor her grandchildren have suffered from ailments like diarrhea or typhoid, which previously plagued the family frequently. Deborah noted that she now spends only 1 SDG to treat their water, which is much less expensive than the regular visits to the health center.

Deborah thanked SHTP II for educating her to treat water at home. She now always treats water that comes from any source and has started speaking out to her neighbors. She refuses to drink water from the neighbors who do not treat their drinking water at home. Additionally, as an active leader in her church, she now ensures that water is treated for the congregation during Sunday services.

Educational outreach to women like Deborah provides communities with vital information about how to avoid disease. By providing one woman with the knowledge to combat disease, now many in the community are benefiting from the education as well.

Erin Polich is a communications consultant with the SHTP II project and is working in South Sudan. Erin is a graduate of Boston University’s School of Public Health.