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Friday, December 10, 2010

South Sudan: A Closer Look at Clean Water Training

In South Sudan, we are hard at work with families of refugees who have returned to their former homes after the end of civil war. In the long list of services that must be restored if families are going to live in stable communities, clean water is at the top.

Like with all our work, infrastructure must be accompanied by education. Our colleagues in Sudan are learning to put together wonderful training sessions that ensure that families enjoy every potential benefit that a clean water system can bring to their community.

For a closer look at what these sessions are like, see this list of questions that villagers in a small community called Wiro had for the instructor who asked them what they wanted to learn about:
  • How to increase water access and avoid conflict over water sources.
  • Discussion on sanitation around water sources
  • Hygiene promotion and water source management
  • Learn to mobilize community to create awareness on environmental hygiene
  • Learn and implement water protection strategies
  • Protecting water sources
  • How people and livestock can share water sources and keep water source hygienic
  • Water containers hygiene
  • Maintain water source sanitation
  • River and bore hole water and how to manage the two
  • Discuss value of clean water and how to use river water source
  • How to manage use of water by diverse groups of people and how to reduce conflict over water
  • Create awareness on use of clean water
  • Repair of broken borehole
  • Management of water source and community mobilization
  • Acquire knowledge and tools for repairs
  • How best to use new borehole.
The list is interesting in several ways...

First, it indicates the level of passion and sophisticated interest that people in Wiro feel towards their water system. It reveals how multidimensional clean water is; the questions posed touch on technical, social, environmental, and interpersonal issues.

The questions are good ones—and if they don’t get the answers, you can just begin to imagine what problems might arise. For example, if they aren’t taught to fence the ‘water point’ (where collection occurs) from livestock and the water is contaminated and then abandoned because it still makes them sick, what good would all the concrete, engineering, and labour that went into creating the system be?

When we take knowledge for granted, we do the families we work with a great disservice. HOPE International Development Agency founders like to tell an anecdote about their early efforts to bring clean water to the poorest of the poor that illustrates this point well.

In an Ethiopian village where a new system had just been installed, a HOPE International Development Agency worker offered a man a drink of clean water - the first he would have ever tasted. The man, who by all accounts was a wise and respected member of the community, categorically refused the water. When asked why, the man explained that he didn’t trust what was on offer - it had no colour at all, and he knew that’s not what water should look like.

Any ‘benefit’ has to be understood in order to be truly beneficial. That’s why we commend the hard work our friends in Southern Sudan are doing to increase knowledge among the families working with us.

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