Conflict, Climate Challenges Behind South Sudan’s Water Shortage, Catholic Aid Agency Says

A water pump that has been repaired through the generosity of CAFOD supporters.

The leadership of a Catholic aid agency with programs in South Sudan has, in a report, attributed water shortages in the East-Central African nation to the protracted conflict and vagaries of the climate.

In the March 9 report obtained by ACI Africa, the leadership of the development and humanitarian arm of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), says, “Access to safe water is a key issue resulting from conflict and climate challenges.”

“There are very high water, hygiene and sanitation needs amongst communities driven by violence, flooding and a lack of infrastructure,” CAFOD's Program Coordinator in South Sudan, Tom Delamare has been quoted as saying in the report.

According to officials of the UK-based charity, although the 2018 peace deal between the country’s President and rebel leader has “largely held,” “local-level fighting still carries on throughout the country.”

The situation is exacerbated by “huge challenges around the climate” that have seen citizens of the nine-year-old country grapple with floods, droughts and associated displacement, especially in the “past couple of years,” CAFOD officials add in their March 9 report.


Due to the vagaries of the climate, the landlocked East-Central African nation has experienced “very frequent cycles of flooding and with huge impact” such as witnessed in 2019 and in 2020 when “close to a million people affected by floods,” Ibrahim Njuguna, the Country Representative of CAFOD in South Sudan has been quoted as saying.

"The frequency of flooding is very high, and communities suffer spikes of drought. These are indications of the impact of climate change. And that links very closely to issues of displacement because people have to move when there's flooding or when there's drought or conflict,” Mr. Njuguna adds.

In the last eight months, over half a million people have “had to leave their homes because of flooding, to seek safety elsewhere,” he further says.

“With all these challenges, families need access to safe water. This is particularly important because of COVID-19,” CAFOD Program Coordinator in South Sudan notes in the March 9 report titled, “The challenge of water in South Sudan.”

On his part, CAFOD’s Country Representative is of the opinion that “access to water would help mitigate some of the triggers to conflict.”

More in Africa

To facilitate access to safe water to the people living in South Sudan, the leadership of CAFOD has, in partnership with the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), invested in water treatment systems, which provide clean water to communities.

The water treatment system benefits an estimated 2,500 people in about 1,000 households, CAFOD officials say, describing the impact of the initiative as “quite significant!”

“South Sudan also has the benefit of having a lot of sunshine, which is brilliant,” Mr. Njuguna says and adds, “We are looking at setting up similar systems tapping into this energy, using solar to run the system so it’s self-sufficient, sustainable and also not contributing to the impact of climate change.”

To ensure the sustainability of the water projects, the leadership of the 59-year-old Catholic agency collaborates with members of the local communities to form “Water User Committees” made up of five people drawn from the host community and those who have settled in the area after fleeing conflict or floods.

“This committee will come together and oversee the use of the borehole. Perhaps they will charge people a small amount to use it. They’ll then put those funds together into a central pot,” Mr. Delamare has said.


The leadership of the agency that runs programs in 14 African countries has also trained community pump mechanics who can fix any breakages in the water systems and get paid using money collected by the Water User Committees.

“So, as well as providing safe water – which is hugely essential – it’s also building and working with communities in order that the intervention is sustainable, so communities are resilient going forward,” the Program Coordinator notes in the March 9 report.

In the report, CAFOD’s leadership expresses appreciation for the continued support by the Church in South Sudan, which they say “is well respected by communities and actors throughout the country on all sides of the conflict.”

Founded in 1962 by Jacquie Stuyt and Elspeth Orchard, CAFOD works with some of the “most hard-to-reach” communities across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, helping the poorest and most marginalized people.