Water supply in Southern Sudan: (Re-)construction during the transition period

Project completed
The SDC is working to improve access to water and sanitation.© SDC

The project is intended to sustainably improve water supplies for the 720,000 inhabitants and their livestock in the Southern Sudanese state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Located near the border with Northern Sudan, this state is one of the poorest places on the planet. Since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between Northern and Southern Sudan was signed in 2005, it has become one of the main points of return for displaced persons from Southern Sudan.  

Country/region Topic Period Budget
South Sudan
Humanitarian Assistance & DRR
Reconstruction and rehabilitation (till 2016)
Drinking water and basic sanitation (WASH) (til 2016)
Water sector policy
01.10.2014 - 30.09.2017
CHF 5'400'000

Since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in 2005, Southern Sudan has been shifting from an emergency to a development context. However, Southern Sudan struggles with a very fragile context and faces enormous development challenges: the safe and sustainable return of some 2.5 million displaced persons, the increasing interethnic violence as well as the creation of functioning state structures.

Like any other sector in Southern Sudan, the water sector remains very weak. It lacks both capacities and infrastructure. The population’s access to safe water and improved sanitation are low, with 48% and 6% respectively. Serious water shortages for humans and cattle occur frequently. As a consequence, waterborne diseases like diarrhoea, typhoid and cholera are widespread.

Water access and management

Due to the large number of people who have returned to Southern Sudan over the past few years, especially to Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, the pressure on the already limited infrastructure has increased.

Project objectives:

• Increase access to safe water (quantity and quality) for the population and its cattle in Northern Bar el Ghazal state, thus contributing to Millennium Development Goals 4 (Reduce Child Mortality) and 5 (Improve Maternal Health). Improved access to water will reduce the potential for conflict over water that is imminent in many regions of Southern Sudan.

• Ensure sustainable use of water resources and strengthen the local water authority in the sustainable management of water resources, thus contributing to Millennium Development Goal 7 (Ensure Environmental Sustainability). Only proper resource management will ensure a lasting improvement in the health and livelihoods of the population.

The project is endowed with a budget of CHF 5 million, covering the period from October 2010 to December 2013. The focus area is Northern Bahr el Ghazal, a border state with a high influx of returnees and low availability of services. The project is intended to sustainably improve the water sector by helping the authori-ties to manage this important resource and take active measures in the water sector.

Cooperation with the authorities

In addition, the project directly improves water services by providing new access to safe water, raising quality standards and providing the means needed for proper maintenance of the water supply system. The close involvement of the authorities, the United Nations (in particular UNICEF), and the local population is crucial for the project’s success.

Given the context and the weak institutional framework in Northern Bar el Ghazal as well as the expertise that the SDC’s Humanitarian Aid Unit has in the water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH) sector, the project is implemented directly by SDC-HA in close cooperation with the authorities.

Building local capacity

The project combines capacity building with improvement of water facilities and services. Capacity building within the state and counties will enable the local authorities to take control, lead and manage the water sector, and plan for the sustainable use of water. Moreover, by contributing to water resource management, the government will be in a position to build its own capacity in this vital yet neglected sector. A final aspect of the project is the emergency response package, which will ensure community preparedness and allow the project to continue operating during conflicts or natural disasters like floods or draughts.

Opportunities and risks

The project can build on the good relationship and trust established during the second Sudanese civil war as well as on the positive reputation SDC-HA has gained during the UN-led operation “Lifeline Sudan”, which was supported by SDC-HA with the secondment of water experts to UNICEF.

The potential benefits for the population in Northern Bar el Ghazal and the opportunity for SDC-HA to use its expertise to help an emerging state and its population manage their water resources outweigh the existing risks in terms of security, logistics and human resources management.

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