Africa News

A day in the life of Juba’s bicycle water vendors

With little access to safe water in South Sudan’s capital, bike vendors play a crucial role by delivering it to people.

Juba, South Sudan – By 10am, the unforgiving morning sun begins to beat down on the dusty streets and mud huts of Hai Gabat, a neighbourhood in the east of Juba, South Sudan‘s capital.

Sam, a 45-year-old water seller from Uganda, has been up for four hours. He is busy securing the last of six jerrycans on to the rusty frame of his old, heavy bicycle.

Around him women, children and men gather beneath the sprawling boughs of a leafy tree, seeking shelter from the sun and filling dozens of yellow jerrycans with running tap water.

The cluster of taps is one of Juba’s two UNICEF-installed water points, where water from the River Nile is treated with aluminum sulfate and chlorine before some 50,000 litres are pumped out daily for private and commercial use.

This small oasis offers a source of potable water in a city where access to safe water isn’t readily available. Only 15 percent of Juba’s residents are able to access municipal water. Much of the population is left vulnerable to waterborne diseases such as cholera, dysentery and the Guinea worm disease.

According to the United Nations, water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the global population with 1.8 billion people worldwide drinking water that is fecally contaminated and some 1,000 children dying each day from preventable water and sanitation-related diseases.

Since June 2016, South Sudan has recorded 6,774 cases of cholera, including 221 deaths. 

Sam, who did not want to give his last name, and his colleagues provide a vital service. They are an integral part of Juba’s water system, given the job of delivering safe drinking water to some of the city’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods.

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