Wednesday, 28 November 2012

28th November - water in Sudan

I see from the news and from a friend’s email that England is suffering a deluge at the moment.  By contrast, living in a desert country, rain is exceedingly rare here.  The whole of the northern part of the country relies on river water which has had a long journey from the south.

Sudanese plumbing systems are frequently problematic.  Even at the SVP flat in Khartoum, the water sometimes cuts off without notice, usually for a few hours, but sometimes for several days at a time.  Opinions vary as to whether this is due to the owner of the building not paying the water bill, or a water pressure problem (the flat is on the third floor).  Either way, sudden absence of water comes as a shock for volunteers newly arrived in an extremely hot country, who have often had no experience of dealing with water problems before. 
Here is Ed Damer, although water is on tap, it only works for a limited time each day and sometimes not at all.  Like every other home I have visited in the area, our home caters for this by having a large water butt and a bucket next to the toilet and shower.  It is necessary to keep a constant eye on the water level in the water butt and rush to replenish it whenever possible.  ‘Showers’ are taken by pouring water from the bucket over ourselves.  Even when the mains water is working, the water pressure is so weak that it is unusual for the ‘official’ shower to work. 

Water quality is another issue.  The water quality in Khartoum is reasonable because it goes through a water purification process and is chlorinated. However, in streets throughout the country there are ‘zeer’ (large traditional earthenware pots) for passers-by to help themselves from, using a communal mug which is never washed.  The zeer are often uncovered so that dirt can fall in.  They are definitely worth avoiding.
In Ed Damer, muddy water comes directly from the Nile and is not purified in any way.  When I first arrived I made the mistake of trying to drink the same water as the locals and was very unwell the next day.  The same thing has happened to Kate.  We now stick to bottled water.  I have been told that a water purification plant is being built.  Roll on that day.  Hopefully it will solve the water pressure problem too, although that may be a dream too far.

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