Sudan Circuit Riders Ensure Clean Water In Communities in Need

Published on March 21, 2023

By Salih Dahab, MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience Sudan WASH Technical Advisor and Waleed Issa Kuku, Sudan WASH Officer

Abdulnabi Hassan Abdallah, 27, lives with his wife, Nawal, and their 18-month-old son, Mohammed, in Tafri village of South Kordofan State, along Sudan’s border with South Sudan. He wakes up around 7 a.m., gets some coffee, then starts his workday as a volunteer circuit rider, traveling locally as part of a team to repair and maintain water pumps in four area communities. The circuit riders routinely inspect and service public water systems on a defined route or “circuit” to improve water availability and quality in a catchment area of more than 230,000 residents.

Circuit Rider Abdulnabi Hassan Abdallah demonstrates hand pump use to a local boy. Photo credit: Saleh Dahab, WASH Technical Advisor, CARE

He was among a group of young women and men invited by MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience to participate in a circuit rider training workshop last year. Abdulnabi said he enjoys this work because it improves people’s access to safe water, helping to reduce their suffering and freeing them to focus on their other priority needs. Clean, accessible water is vital for the health of mothers and their children, for washing, food preparation, cleaning, and other needs. In addition, the training helped Abdulnabi to improve his own skills.

“After the training, I gained more knowledge and skills on water supply system operation and maintenance, such as water pipelines, hand pump mechanics, electromechanics, and water treatment and quality monitoring,” said Abdulnabi. “This opportunity motivated me to work and improve my skills in the area of water systems maintenance.”

Sudan is a challenging environment. Annual income is around $500-650 per person, and, as with many sub-Saharan countries, infant and maternal mortality rates are high. South Kordofan was seriously affected by the North-South war that preceded South Sudan’s independence, when infrastructure and basic services were left in poor condition –  particularly wells and other critical water sources. Increasing numbers of returning residents exert additional pressure on the limited water supply, leading to inter- and intra-group conflicts. Without a working hand pump nearby, women and girls must travel far to obtain water, which can make them targets of violence.

MOMENTUM provides training, initial equipment and fuel, and ongoing technical support to circuit riders and community-based water committees. In the past, many water interventions lacked proper planning and real technical input, without long-term sustainable solutions. The current efforts contribute to sustainability and individual health resilience by reducing exposure to water-related illnesses and giving people the knowledge, confidence, and skills to be positive agents of change in their communities.

Abdulnabi Hassan Abdallah, one of MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience’s first circuit riders. Credit: MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience Sudan

Abdulnabi was one of ten participants in the MOMENTUM circuit rider training. They learned how to maintain and repair both mechanical and electric hand pumps and solar electric panels, obtain parts, and monitor water quality and treatment. MOMENTUM provided a three-wheeled motorcycle (known locally as tuk-tuks),  a generator, tools, and a 3-month supply of spare parts to start the team off.

Abdulnabi and his team help to strengthen each community’s ability to monitor, maintain, chlorinate, and repair public water systems. Circuit riders also teach community members how to monitor water quality and prevent damage to water infrastructure while performing their routine monitoring, maintenance, and repair work.

Abdulnabi said he wishes for sustainable peace and development in Sudan. He hopes his efforts will reduce tensions resulting from water shortages due to broken water systems. Competition over scarce water supplies among humans and livestock is a trigger for inter-communal conflict in South Kordofan, so improving access to public water supplies to meet everyone’s needs contributes to social cohesion and stability.

Abdulnabi, who did similar work in the past, said that this effort differs from his previous experiences because other projects trained people on hand pump repair but then left them to their own devices. MOMENTUM provides circuit riders with short-term financial support and ongoing technical support after training so they can earn income through repairing and maintaining water sources.

Plans are in place for  MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience to establish and strengthen water committees to supervise circuit rider activities, mobilize community resources to purchase spare parts, and ensure availability of parts in local markets. It is anticipated during 2023 that circuit rider teams will expand to two additional localities in South Kordofan.

Abdulnabi notes that his work will help him care for his family by giving them continuous access to a safe drinking water source located near their home. “This circuit rider approach has increased my social network through linking us with colleagues from different areas to work together and provide services to varied communities within our locality,” said Abdulnabi. “I hope our intervention will expand to other neighboring localities.”

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