Washington, DC - On World Water Day, we shed light on a project in South Sudan is reducing the burden of water collection for thousands on women and girls.

Based on a story by Corrie Butler, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

Water and sanitation is a basic human right for all. Yet, the UN Report on Clean Water and Sanitation suggests water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population. In countries like South Sudan, water and sanitation-related diseases are among the top killers of children under five—even though they are completely preventable.

Six-year old, Mary, reaches for the water pump handle well above her head to fill her large jerry can with water. In one practiced motion, she hoists the jerry can onto her head, balancing it without her hands.

With the help of the South Sudan Red Cross, Mary and more than 500 members in her community have access to clean, drinking water. Mary and her neighbors used to fetch dirty water from a stream a half hour walk away. Now, clean water is on her doorstep.

“The stream was making us sick,” says Victoria Richard, another villager. “In rainy season, the water would get even more dirty and when it was dry, there would be no water at all.”

“Now that we have this borehole, we’re closer to clean water.”

Long distance work

The responsibility of fetching water traditionally falls to women and children in rural South Sudan. They often have to venture far distances on foot at least three times a day.

IFRC’s Michael Charles says water can quickly become the major concern for a community. “We see that more than 90 per cent of the people fetching water are women and girls who must travel long distances,” he remarks. “We’re here through the power of our volunteer network to help bring water closer to the communities and ensure that women and their families are healthier and safe.”

Better access to safe water globally gives women and girls more opportunity to work or go to school.

The South Sudan Red Cross is reaching 3.1 million people, including 560,000 children under the age of five to help prevent common illnesses in rural communities, including malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea. Thousands of families now have access to clean drinking water in this region through the project with millions more using safer health, sanitation and hygiene practices that keep their families safe and healthy.

How American Red Cross provides safe water around the globe

Safe, clean water isn’t easy to come by in many parts of the world—especially after earthquakes, typhoons, and tsunamis strike. The American Red Cross works alongside Red Cross and Red Crescent teams to deliver water in the aftermath of disasters, but we don’t stop there. We also make investments in communities’ water and sanitation infrastructure so families can stay safer and healthier in the long-run. This includes building bathrooms and handwashing facilities in schools; restoring irrigation to fields; repairing towns’ water systems; teaching about health and hygiene; and so much more. Water is life.