In the town of Akobo in southeast Sudan, more than 55,000 people live on less than two liters of clean water a day. To mitigate the issue, the International Committee of the Red Cross is working on a solar powered pumping system that will increase the supply of safe drinking water to 10 liters a day per person. If the system is successful, it will be replicated in many other towns.
The Red Cross has built a series of water yards where solar-powered pumps extract water from tens of meters below the ground and transfers it to elevated tanks. The water then flows through pipes to public distribution points throughout the town. The structures for the 420 solar panels that will power the system are already in place, and the panels are currently en route from Germany to Akobo. The system should be up and running by the end of March.
The biggest problem regarding water in east Africa is not scarcity, but maintaining or developing proper means of distribution, especially in a town like Akobo. Despite the town’s clear need for humanitarian help — nearly 20,000 of Akobo’s residents are displaced persons who fled violence in their own regions — very few organizations operate there because it’s so hard to access. The Red Cross can only get there by plane or boat, and they bring heavy supplies by barge on the Nile River.
Akobo’s remote location had much to do with choosing a solar powered system — it needs to be able to run with no major interventions or repairs in the near future. The town’s water authorities are being trained in the proper use of the system. The Red Cross says it has had positive experience with solar projects in other parts of Africa, and they hope to expand the solar pumping system.
Images © Water for Sudan