Back to the field with travel upgrades

Drop in the Bucket started off the New Year on a great note.  We received a wonderful Christmas present this year from UNICEF in South Sudan.  They donated two Land Cruisers to assist our field teams in our work.  This is a tremendous upgrade for us from old beat down vehicles we’ve been getting around in.

Over the holidays, our always-reliable logistical director, George and one of our South Sudan consultants, Majodit, were in Juba dealing with everything related to the new trucks.  They finalized our NGO registrations with the new government, got the trucks registered, insured and ready for action.  I felt bad that they were spending time doing this when they should have been celebrating with their families, but they were insisting.  We are all so grateful to now have safe, reliable transportation to navigate the treacherous, unpaved terrain.

George and Majodit’s dedication to our projects is incredible.    These guys have fought their entire lives for the freedom of their country and they are extremely devoted to continuing to help with the struggle. They love being in a position to really help their people, many of whom are desperate for the most basic of services.  Water, food and education are at the top of that list.

When I returned to the US for the holidays, the humanitarian community was preparing for the major influx of returnees that were coming back from the North into South Sudan. Driving through the streets of Aweil this time, it was clear that they had come…. and were still coming.

The UN estimates that since July around 328,000 people have returned to South Sudan. The final destination for 100,000 of them was Northern Bahr el Ghazal State (Aweil) and its two neighboring states.

The streets of Aweil were flooded with people. There were donkeys pulling carts loaded with USAID bags of sorghum, a local grain staple. The street kids were out in droves searching for a piece of bread or small change.

It is clear that the additional people are definitely taking a toll on the region and there is a food shortage that’s reached crisis level. Even the donkeys and horses around Aweil Town looked weak and hungry, with their bones protruding, as they struggled to haul their carts.

People are really guarded so I don’t take many photos. I don’t want to offend them or have them in any way think we are going to exploit the suffering.
We are careful to let people know that we want to hear from them, work WITH them to address their crisis.

Although there was a real sense of desperation in town, I knew things were even much worse in the villages. There are many areas that we can only access during the dry season (December – May). I learned that in August 2011 , at the same time we were doing our preliminary assessments in Aweil, 350 people had died of starvation in a remote returnee camp in the next state over, Warrap.

It’s so hard for me to accept that people are dying of starvation and from drinking contaminated water, when I see people around the world who have so much… and waste so much. But here there is no waste around here.

Food prices have gone through the roof, increasing by almost 50% since last August. Over the summer you could buy a 50-kilo bag of sorghum for 130 South Sudanese pounds. Now it’s 180 SSP. People cannot afford to feed their families.

Looking around at the dry barren landscape, you see a lot of potential farmland. And underground water is easily accessed, with the right equipment. The largest aquifer in all of Africa sits underneath this particular region. It’s rare to drill and not reach water. This is water that could also be used as irrigation for the vast stretches of farmland. It’s hard to believe that this area is so rich with untapped resources and, at the same time, the people are dying of hunger and from drinking contaminated water. But on a positive note, I’m meeting good, smart people out here every single day who are all collaborating to make a difference.


Author: Stacey Travis

Founder and Executive Director of Drop in the Bucket a water charity building water wells and sanitation systems at schools in Africa.

6 thoughts on “Back to the field with travel upgrades”

  1. Hi Stacey. My name is Yolie Moreno. I just returned from Marial Bai South Sudan. My 8 year old daughter and I went to visit the Marial Bai secondary school built by our friend Valentino Achak Deng.(
    We had been supporting him for a number of years and wanted to visit since we were “in the area” on safari in Tanzania.
    I am still processing what I saw and frustrated with what still needs to be done. I managing an enormous project to make this school the model of what is possible in the region and for this emerging country. It’s is hugely daunting but Valentino is very connected and has enormously wealthy contacts that have not been tapped yet.
    My first concern is the toilet situation. I want to build your Eco-Sanitation Flush Toilets. I’d like to talk to you.
    Please call me.
    Thanks, Yolie

  2. Hi Stacey, I’m a friend of Sara Renshaw’s, I met you at Jodi’s last year in LA. I received Drop in the Bucket’s email this afternoon and proceeded to read your March 20 post. I’m really interested in your work. I’m a development consultant with American Jewish World Service here in LA. Have you crossed paths with them, they work in your backyard. Anyway I’d like to stay in touch and will talk to Sara tonight when I see her at an AJWS event about how ways to support you. Thanks Stacey for doing what youre doing there. Best, Leilani

  3. Hello Stacey & John, Great to hear you are getting so much done. Water for So. Sudan is now up to 124 bore hole wells and still drilling NW of Wau. Hope to catch up with you one of these days. Lunch at Gulfstream when Judy returns from Peru? Hugs,

  4. Hi Stacey we are an NGO in Australia, we have raised some money to put in a bore in Mabok near Aweil. Are you able to help us sink a bore or can you give us the name of someone who can help in Aweil?

    1. Hi Lynda,

      I hope we can help! We will certainly do our best. What county is Mabok in? Drilling conditions in Aweil vary and the highlands of Aweil East and North are sometimes very difficult. Otherwise, there are not big problems reaching water. Do you know if there is a school nearby?

      Can you email me directly with more information on the area. Thanks so much!!

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