Posts Tagged ‘health’

Showering in South Sudan…Sometimes

February 3, 2017

DSC_6347.JPGNWNL Director Alison Jones met fellow journalist Dale Willman just before he left for South Sudan. We stayed in touch as he worked to help young local journalists in this Nile River Basin, newly-formed country.   Dale is an award-winning editor, reporter, trainer and photographer with decades of reporting from five continents. During more than 15 years in Washington, DC, he worked for NPR, CBS and CNN. As a trainer, he was recently in South Sudan working with the staff of a local radio station. During the first Gulf War he reported from London for NPR, providing coverage for an IRA bombing campaign. 

South Sudan’s struggles with peace and availability of clean water continue to create disturbing headlines.  NWNL is proud to carry Dale’s story. 

By Dale Willman

Showering outside is one of the few pleasures for a temperate-zone kind of guy working in the tropics.

But water is a precious resource in South Sudan. It is also a complicated topic. For many of the country’s 8-10 million people, clean drinking water is relatively accessible. The operative word here of course is “relatively.”

I lived in Turalei, a small village in South Sudan from July of 2015 until March 2016. Older U. S. sports aficionados will remember its most famous resident, NBA basketball star Manut Bol, who is now buried in a memorial north of the village. I was there as a journalism trainer for Radio Mayardit. We lived in a fenced compound with our radio station, a small living area of three tukuls (small huts), a cooking area, latrines – and that outdoor shower.

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Turalei is a sleepy village. Its rutted dirt roads pass by market stalls made of sticks and rusty, corrugated metal roofs.  Posters of soldiers killed in the country’s civil war are plastered on a monument that marks the middle of the village. Food is scarce. I lost 30 pounds in my first two months. For a guy more comfortable with snow, it is hot. South Sudan is a tropical country where daytime temperatures regularly reach north of 115 degrees. An evening shower under the stars helped me survive.

The entire country however lacks the most basic infrastructure, including running water. Many larger villages have at least one wellhead, thanks to the tireless work of dozens of NGOs over the past ten years. But for those in the countryside, which is most of the country’s population, the nearest well may be a kilometer or more away. That presents difficulties for some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens – its youngest population.

Children are an economic asset in this country. Kids working at home are more important to a family struggling to survive than kids getting a classroom education. So rather than backpacks filled with books like American school kids, many South Sudanese children carry dirty, yellow jerry cans a kilometer or two from wellhead to home. Each can holds five or more gallons of water and weighs 40 pounds or more. Often children do this several times each day in order to have water for the most basic of needs – cooking and bathing among them.

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Having access to clean water though does not mean that the water people drink is clean. For as many as 2/3 of homes, by the time water is consumed it is contaminated with E coli and other impurities, according to research over the past decade.

Open storage is a huge problem. In Turalei’s compound where I lived and worked, drinking water was kept outside in a 50-gallon drum, loosely covered by a broken wooden board, often left lying on the ground. It was not uncommon to see mosquito larvae and pupas floating in the water. Birds that regularly sat on the drum’s rim would defecate into the water. And of course the dust – there is always dust – also infiltrates the barrel.

And there’s that shower I so relished. The water tank for my shower was regularly left uncovered. The container was so contaminated that at one point I was treated for a ruptured eardrum, probably caused by an infection from contaminated water.

Transport of water from its source to a home is another source of potential contamination. Many worked and lived in our compound, thus our water needs were extensive. A young man we hired regularly brought the water to us in two 50-gallon drums welded together and hauled on a donkey cart. One day my shower smelled of petrol. It’s possible that he made a little extra money that week by hauling fuel for someone, using the same drums he used for our water.

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How water is stored in the home plays another major role in whether families will be drinking clean water. The jerry cans that store water in homes across South Sudan are often also used for cooking oil, petrol and other commodities.

The way water is used, or not used, is a significant health factor for the country’s population. It was common during my year in South Sudan for me to see people returning from a toilet before meals without washing their hands. Since most meals are eaten communally, diarrheal diseases easily spread through entire communities.

Throughout history, water has played a major role in defining South Sudan. The White Nile divides this country as it flows from its Ugandan southern border to its northern Sudanese border. Above Juba, the nation’s capital, the river spreads out to form the world’s largest swamp called The Sudd.

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In 61 A.D., The Sudd blocked invading Romans, ending Emperor Nero’s hope of dominating all of Africa. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the British attempted to cut through the Sudd. While the British were periodically successful, their efforts were always short-lived. Nature, it turns out, is a better reclamation artist than humans usually give credit. Even now, the Egyptian government’s effort to create a canal to drain a portion of the swamp in the next 24 years has stalled.

For many years, The Sudd has been an advantage for the citizens of South Sudan, having created a natural barrier to fighting that has ravaged the country. With much of the conflict based around the oil fields in the northeast, the Sudd has prevented some of that fighting from infecting much of the nation’s western flank.

Like I said, water is a complicated issue in South Sudan.

The Value of Water in a dry land – Photos from the Omo River Basin

October 24, 2014
Africa:  Kenya; Pokot Land, Orwa, CABESI Kitchen without Borders project, vegetable garden plot, seedlings

Africa: Kenya; Pokot Land, Orwa, CABESI Kitchen without Borders project, vegetable garden plot, seedlings

 

Ethiopia: Kundama Farm, a Duss tribal farming community, a 2-day-old Karo baby with its mother

Ethiopia: Kundama Farm, a Duss tribal farming community, a 2-day-old Karo baby with its mother

 

Ethiopia:  Omo Delta at low water stage, herders lead cattle to water

Ethiopia: Omo Delta at low water stage, herders lead cattle to water

 

Africa:  Kenya; Turkana Land, man pushing cart of gerry cans to be filled with water from the river outside of town

Africa: Kenya; Turkana Land, man pushing cart of gerry cans to be filled with water from the river outside of town

 

Africa:  Kenya; Karakol, dried tilapia headed to markets in Kisimu, Nairobi and elsewhere

Africa: Kenya; Karakol, dried tilapia headed to markets in Kisimu, Nairobi and elsewhere

 

Ethiopia:  Omo Delta, Dassenech village of Ilokelete, in low water season, woman carrying fodder for goats

Ethiopia: Omo Delta, Dassenech village of Ilokelete, in low water season, woman carrying fodder for goats

 

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

Brain-eating amoeba in Louisiana’s water

September 26, 2014
Parish of St. John the Baptist, Louisiana

Parish of St. John the Baptist

Naegleria fowleri  (also known as the “brain-eating amoeba”) is a free-living, thermophilic excavate form of protist typically found in warm bodies of fresh water, such as ponds, lakes, rivers, and hot springs. It is also found in soil, near warm-water discharges of industrial plants, and in poorly chlorinated, or unchlorinated swimming pools….

N. fowleri can invade and attack the human nervous system and brain, causing primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). Although this occurs rarely, such an infection nearly always results in the death of the victim.  The case fatality rate is greater than 95%. [Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naegleria_fowleri]

This parish is like so many other towns we all live in…  Except that in southern Louisiana in September the weather is wicked hot and humid – and there is lots of industry responsible for creating fence-line communities.

New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, "Petro-Chemical Alley"

New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, “Petro-Chemical Alley”

(“Fence-line” refers to communities with refineries, gas compression stations and other kinds of industrial operations. These plants put up high wire mesh fences to keep people out of their premises, but those fences don’t stop toxins from entering the air and water of those communities. The term is used by agencies trying to address the resulting health issues occurring due to such toxins.)

New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, "Petro-Chemical Alley"

New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, “Petro-Chemical Alley”

The parish government has implemented “chlorine burns” to disinfect the Lions system, which serves over 12,000 people. The School Board has declared an emergency, taking school water fountains offline and putting water coolers in place. The deadly amoeba infiltrates via water vapor in the nose, and spreads to the brain causing severe damage. Residents are getting home water tests and taking precautions when swimming or bathing. Town meetings have drawn large crowds to discuss what can be done in their communities.

Parish of St John the Baptist school sign "Better Schools, Better Futures"

St John the Baptist Parish school sign “Better Schools. Better Futures.”

Related news : http://abcnews.go.com/Health/brain-eating-amoeba-found-louisiana-water-supply/story?id=25160247

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/09/brain-eating_amoeba_in_st_john_1.html

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

Coal exports threaten human health, aquatic life and degrade natural resources

September 17, 2014

USACE is pulling out of its study of the coal terminal in Portland, Oregon since tribal fishing rights are stopping the process. This is great news, as the Columbia Riverkeeper notes, for the health of the anadromous fish populations as well as human communities in the Lower Columbia River Basin.

But this news puts more pressure on a proposal for a new international coal terminal at the end of the Mississippi River in its Delta where air and water pollution from coal already being exported degrades the lives of those nearby. Unfortunately, Louisiana is one of the states that doesn’t require coal cars or coal piles to be covered. Thus wind blows coal ash off open train cars, conveyer belts and large storage piles in all directions. The levees around the stored piles waiting for transfer onto barges are low and simple earthen structures that are easily breached in big storms….

There are many fewer people to be affected in the Mississippi Delta than in Portland and surrounding communities on the Columbia. So, it’s not likely there can be the coordinated, strong protest that has been ongoing in the Columbia River Basin. Nor are there tribal fishing rights that stand up in court. In the Mississippi River Delta it falls to local shrimpers and oyster fishermen to prove that coal ash in the water affects the health of the fin fish and shellfish populations.

Interesting how what happens in one NWNL watershed affects and relates to another.

USA:  Louisiana, New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, Gulf Coast, Mississippi River Delta, coal being prepared for export

USA: Louisiana, New Orleans, Lower Mississippi River Basin, Gulf Coast, Mississippi River Delta, coal being prepared for export

 

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