By this time of March, you'd expect the ground to cracked—hardened by the searing daily temperatures. Not this year. In every direction flood water remains. To move our gear to a new well site we use canoes. We paddle through a forested area which is completely under water. The floods of 2020 and 2021 have compounded the human crisis of a country and region just trying to gain a foothold on normalcy,
Every day in Old Fangak new IDP's arrive. Dozens of internally displaced people. Refugees. Eight out of ten are coming because their homes and all their food were destroyed by flooding. This isn't the typical, seasonal floods. Climate change. Heavy rains and snow melt in Uganda have flooded the White Nile and the Sud here in Jonglei State, South Sudan. There's been nothing like it for a century.
Most all of the crops lost. Foot paths to nearby villages under water. The normal supply chain of food coming from relief agencies interrupted by impassable roads in other parts of South Sudan and Sudan. This is a crisis on top of a crisis.
Today the Chief of Keernyang village came to our compound asking for help. We had recently brought in water pumps to help with the heavily flooded areas in the village of Old Fangak. He has asked us to come to his village and pump out an area so that food from the United Nations could be delivered. They, the U.N., won't come until the area is dry he told us. Although this is outside of our regular mission, their need is dire and their community is starving. We agree to come, and plans have been made.
Here in Old Fangak our trained drilling crew are surveying existing water wells for damage caused by flooding. Many are under water, and others have minor repairs needed. This is what they are trained to do. By making sure the wells are working properly the local population and new IDP's will have sources of clean drinking water.
While most of the crops and food supplies are lost, we are helping the local farmers with seeds, tools and training. We recently distributed over 300 pounds of seeds to over 150 farming families. Onions, carrots, watermelon, okra, kale, eggplant as well as papaya seedlings. In areas where the water has receded the seeds have been sown and we're already seeing the results. This program is not just for longtime residents. If an IDP decides to stay, once they are settled, they are welcome to request the aid we offer. Our biggest challenge is keeping up with demand.
Not quite three months into the new year and we've already exceeded delivery of agricultural supplies for all of 2020. To be able to deliver more seeds and tools we will need your help.
We are now reimagining about how to best help refugees with food and clean water. Community leaders are asking us to work to provide “high ground” villages new boreholes (in the drier areas of the region) so that when flooding happens, the refugees can move there. As our normal work continues here in, and near, Old Fangak we are exploring how to provide for the needs of a community facing crisis.
One day I hope to report that the problems are solved, and all is well. Today I can simply say that each day we take one step towards helping a group of people who have no one else to turn to. They are so grateful for what is provided. Your gift is life changing here in South Sudan. We are thankful too.
Like the rest of the world, South Sudan is facing and dealing with the Covid 19 outbreak. In the midst of this pandemic comes another crisis. Rising flood waters of the Nile River have displaced close to one million people. Exacerbated by climate change, the people are seeing the highest waters in a century. Many have lost their homes, all their food, and are now refugees—an estimated 300,000 flood refugees in the region where we work.
As a NGO working to provide clean water and develop agriculture to fight famine our hearts break seeing so many more people in distress. But we also are moved to action.
Before the floods we had already provided six new sources of clean water in remote villages near Old Fangak. This involved drilling new boreholes or repairing wells that were dysfunctional. Clean water is essential to good health. We had also begun to bring seeds and tools for small family farms and gardens for the refugees who already are in our area. They had come mostly to flee internal conflict.
Now with flood refugees, our goal is to double the amount of seeds, hoes, shovels, watering cans and foot pumps so that we can help families feed themselves during this crisis. Imagine if you lost all your food and any means to grow more? Then imagine how you'd feel is someone, you did not know, came to your aid. Miracle. Gift from heaven. This is how the Southern Sudanese refugees feel when we are able to provide them basic help.
We also intend on drilling six new boreholes in the next three months. All in areas where this is not any source of clean water.
We are good at this. In this area along the Nile River the people call us the Alaska Team. They believe that "Alaska" means hope for a better future. It's now up to all of us to continue to deliver the help they need.
On a recent day, with temperatures near 115° Fahrenheit, the drilling crew of the Alaska Sudan Medical Project reached the water table at the village of Yedit. This village had never before had a source of clean drinking water. But after 7 days of drilling they were successful. From the earth below came a steady stream of clean, potable water. A miracle. As you can imagine the village celebrated. Life was changed forever.
But we at the Alaska Sudan Medical Project celebrated for another reason. This was the very first water well drilled by our all Southern Sudanese drilling team. Our Alaska Team! Until now every well we've drilled was under the supervision of an experienced driller from outside South Sudan. The new well at Yedit showed that our apprentice program has resulted in a group of experienced well drillers able to work when we are not in country.
Success on two fronts. Training Southern Sudanese in job skills and putting those skills to work providing clean water for their people.
Since November 2019 we have drilled four successful wells and one dry hole. We'll take those results. There are four new communities with acess to clean drinking water. And as we provide clean water we are also introducing agriclture into each community group. Our mission of providing "hope and health" for life in South Sudan, starts with clean water and is followed by food on the table. Small family farms.
Our training helps this become sustainable. Training as well drillers and training as farmers. Your donations help us do both. In a part of the world where very little help comes from abroad, your donations are making life saving and life changing differences. We are so grateful.
Our goal is to continue drilling during the rainy season with our Alaska Team drill crew. We hope to provide clean water for six more villages before years end. Each donation to this project will move us a step closer. Thank you for your support.
When the ASMP boat pulled ashore, ten minutes down the Pho river from Old Fangak, we were met by the women of Wangnyanuor. Their village is a 30 minute walk inland. A place where refugees from the recent civil war are being encouraged to settle.
The woman divide the drilling equipment into pieces they can carry, on their heads, then are off. Our plan is to drill two boreholes. One at Wangnyanour and a second at Wongmok. Both are areas with many refugees. Village elders and the local government have identified these areas as most in need of a source of clean drinking water.
Our ASMP drilling team, with their “Alaska Team” shirts and coveralls were eager to get to work. They understand the importance to their community and the refugees who are settling here. Clean water is the foundation for good health.
Every day we receive new requests from villages in this part of South Sudan which have no clean drinking water. Our challenge, and commitment, is to bring our Alaska spirit, our resolve, and our caring hearts to this great need.
During a meeting with the village chiefs we are told that clean water is their number one request. So many people are still living without a source of clean water. So they drink from ponds or the river and that alone brings disease.
Old Fangak had been a modest size village of around 5,000 people when we first came to help in 2008. The civil war which eruped in 2013 changed Old Fangak forever. This "small" village became home to over 50,000 people. They came on foot and by the river. In some cases floating on small bunches of soil and grass which broke off from the river's edge and became their raft.
A long cue of people wait at one of the wells near the center of the village. The women will wait for hours for their turn to fill the Jerry cans with water and return to their homes. They might do this several times a day. This is because the exploding population is taxing the available wells.
Over the next few months, neighborhood by neighborhood, we will be working to provide new sources of clean water. The only real obstacle is money. Each well requires around $5,000 in materials (pumps, pipes, casing, gravel, cement) and another $5,000 to bring those materials from Juba to Old Fangak. We are in this for the long haul and have promised the people in this part of South Sudan that we are going to help. Together we can get it done.
This is the rainy season in Old Fangak, South Sudan. The tuberculosis patients, who gather daily for their observed therapy, must wait in the mud, protected only by a few trees. Many of these patients are among the 50,000+ refugees who have come to Old Fangak. It has been a safe haven where medical treatment is possible. Where there is clean water and food. Here at the tuberculosis clinic, there is a water well providing these patients a source of drinking water. But that well stopped working.
In days past, that would mean waiting for a team to come from outside of South Sudan to diagnose and repair the well if possible. But not today. Today we have a team of trained well drilling technicians—all Southern Sudanese living in this village. The team quickly repaired this well and now the tuberculosis patients have a source, nearby, for the water they need to take their medicine.
This is your donations at work. Not only providing new sources of clean drinking water, but also making sure the existing wells function as they should.
Our goal in the next three months is to bring the supplies into the village to make the water well at the TB center a solar powered pump. We plan on erecting a water tower so that clean water is always available. The tower itself will cost $15,000 USD. The solar electric system a couple thousand dollars more. The people in this village do not have any other organization to turn to for this kind of project. Your donations will help these patients, the locals and the refugees, so that their recovery from diseases like tuberculosis is not hindered due to a lack of water.
We are grateful for the support and know that the people of South Sudan are thankful for the help coming from afar.
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