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May 23, 2019

Clean Water for Dhoreak

Villagers of Dhoreak, South Sudan.
Villagers of Dhoreak, South Sudan.

The Alaska Sudan Medical Project is, well by well, bringing clean water to an area of South Sudan that when we arrived in 2008  had very few sources of clean drinking water.  Most of the 23 wells we have completed are in the area of Old Fangak--a village in the northern part of the country along a branch of the Nile river.  This village has become a safe haven for refugees fleeing civil war violence and has seen a surge in population of 50,000 internally displaced people.  This past December we drilled another two wells for the growing population.  And then we heard the story of another village needing help.

The tiny village of Dhoreak is an hour up river by small boat and a 90 minute walk inland. Until this past March villagers got their drinking water from a swamp which was brown in color, used by cattle, and filled with disease.  We decided that this village would be the next place to drill boreholes for clean drinking water.  We called our project two wells for Dhoreak:  Mission Possible.  

It was among the most challenging of projects we've undergone in the past decade.  Most of the heavy equipment and supplies had to be carried by foot in 120 degree temperatures for several miles.  But the villagers themselves said it would not be a problem.  Each 50lb bag of sand, every galvanized iron pipe, the gravel and cement--everything we needed carried to the village.  The drill rig had to somehow get across the swamp.  Canoes made of tree trunks became a makeshift “raft” to carry the heavy rig to where it was needed.  The water “mud” pits used for drilling were too far for our hoses to reach.  So the women of the village filled them by hand.  One 5 gallon Jerry can at a time.

So many challenges, including broken equipment, were met head-on and overcome.  Today we can report that Dhoreak has two working water wells bringing that community its first and only sources of clean drinking water.

We can only do this work with the help of caring individuals who understand that when we lift up the health of one small village, we are improving the health of the global community.  Our motto is “hope and health for life.”  Not just in South Sudan.  For all of us.  We plan to continue this work until people living in this area of South Sudan are all drinking pure, clean water.  Together we are making a difference!

Feb 21, 2019

The Dry Season Is Coming

February in Old Fangak, South Sudan is a time of hot, dry days. The rainy season came to an end in September and the water soaked earth is now cracked. The dry season will last for about 6 months, and during that time our team will be on the ground working to support our farmers and to drill new water wells.  As we write, a team in the village of Dhoreak has drilled to 45m and tomorrow, February 22, they will case this borehole.  The first one in this small village.

The dry season is a time of hope. With the passing of the rains comes the first harvest.  But then the dry season deepens, and farmers must find a way to water their crops without rain.  This is the scariest time to be a refugee. Food in rural South Sudan is scarce, to begin with. No matter where you are, and no matter who you are. But for some people that don't have land - refugees - the inability to grow your own food can be a death sentence.

The support we are bringing to 120 farming families in Old Fangak is critical. They will help to feed their community, and more bellies will be full. Our project has brought seeds and seedlings which have been distributed among the farmers.  We have brought watering cans which are a simple and effective way to water the gardens in the dry season.  

There are some 50,000+ refugees in Old Fangak.  They have arrived fleeing the violence of civil war.  Though a peace accord has been signed, many of these people will stay.  Their homes have been destroyed.  At least in Old Fangak they have clean water to drink, medical care, and the help coming via seeds and tools to start small gardens.

The donations have helped bring hope and a better life.  They are so grateful.

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May 10, 2018

Turning barren ground into food!

An irrigation foot pump in action!
An irrigation foot pump in action!

Great news from South Sudan! Over the past few months our farmers have been hard at work breaking up the concrete hard soil with iron hoes. They’ve sowed more fields and turned more barren ground into food.

This time last year a famine was announced in South Sudan – the first famine to be declared anywhere in the world in half a decade. And by the end of 2017, experts were warning that 2018 would be even worse. So we doubled down our efforts in training, equipping and supporting local farmers.  With your help, we distributed tens of thousands of seeds, over 1,000 hand tools, 500 meters of fencing, 20 foot powered irrigation pumps, hundreds of fruit tree starters, 5 canoes, and 100 fishing kits.  All of this to help our 126 farmers feed their families and their communities.

So far, our farmers have echoed a very similar sentiment: they’re overflowing with gratitude. Not only are they feeding their families, but they are selling their excess produce in the market, and actually earning an income – many for the first time.

When we asked how her crops are doing, Wichjak, one of our female farmers told us with a big smile, "I grow the okra, then I can sell it in the market. Then with this cash, I buy my children clothes."

Of the 126 farmers in our program 26 are women. Though it’s common for females to be charged with maintaining gardens in Nuer culture, it’s very uncommon for a woman to claim ownership over a farm. Often, the farm would belong to a man, and then his wife and mother would tend to it. We are thrilled to support the growing number of females that are independently starting and maintaining plots of their own.

We are confident that though famine is a true threat in South Sudan, fewer will go hungry in our small corner of the country. But there is still more work to do.

Small farm outside of Old Fangak
Small farm outside of Old Fangak
Jal shows off one of his watermelons
Jal shows off one of his watermelons
Onion Crop
Onion Crop
 
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