UNMISS hands over much-needed water point to border communities in Aweil
NORTHERN BAHR EL GHAZAL – Shared borders with neighbouring Sudan, often creates a situation in the world’s newest nation, South Sudan, where support needs to be given to communities hailing from both countries.
Take the case of Pau-Adhot market in Aweil west – a bustling trading venue for host communities as well as pastoralists from East Darfur in Sudan who migrate annually to graze their livestock, exporting goods and commodities for sale in the bargain.
A lack of potable, uncontaminated water sources in this densely populated area of Northern Bahr El Ghazal state has led to inevitable competition between herders from both sides in the past over this vital resource, despite a seasonal river in the vicinity.
In a bid to mitigate this longstanding source of conflict, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), as part of its Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) programme, has recently drilled a solar-powered borehole in Pau-Adhot.
“The river water isn’t fit for human consumption,” revealed Ma Inecita Montero, the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Civil Affairs Team Leader in the state.
“Consuming water from the river has led to many people—including children—contracting water-borne diseases. Additionally, there is a lack of health facilities in the area, making it extremely difficult for communities when they fall sick,” she continued. “We, therefore, decided that we must intervene and make life easier for the people we are on the ground to serve.”
Ms. Monteiro’s words are borne out by Abdallah Dagarbo Witjan, a representative of the South Sudanese herding community.
“If it wasn’t for the struggle over water, we do not have any conflict with anybody. Hopefully, this water point will wash away all contentious claims and ensure peace begins in this area,” he stated. “Everybody should be able to drink and use water without any restrictions. Water is life,” he added.
Deng William Tong, Northern Bahr El Ghazal’s Acting Minister of Cooperative and Rural Development, agreed with Mr. Witjan.
“This water point is very important both for host communities and migrants who come from Sudan to South Sudan. It is a model based on value-sharing which, I hope, will lead to development, and improve the quality of life for our people,” he stated.
The USD 50,000-worth project needs to be cared for, cautions UNMISS Head of Field Office, Ataklti Hailu.
“Water, like any other resource, requires management. This management or responsibility is not left to one entity; it is a shared responsibility among stakeholders. The community living around this area has a responsibility to protect this point from any misuse,” he urged.
Rivalry over natural resources such as land, including the demarcation of livestock routes, and water, can often escalate intercommunal tensions, especially during the annual cattle migration season across South Sudan.
Through projects like these, UNMISS aims to benefit the maximum number of people, while reducing potential conflicts.