Nowhere to escape as floods batter South Sudanese

By Oyet Patrick

Assembling hundreds of learners displaced by floods is the first task headteacher Mawat Mathiang has to contend with daily.

The pupils are part of the multitude displaced by heavy flooding that has beset Unity State.

Over 100 schools have been destroyed in the event as water continues sweeping across the State.

Mathiang’s school, Kadet Primary School is one of those which had to relocate to Rubkhona, one of the few high grounds spared.

As the water levels continue to rise, they may have nowhere else to run to.

“The school has no classes and we are teaching under trees,” Mathiang told Juba Echo in an interview this month.

“We enrolled as many displaced children as possible but they have to do without many things including clean drinking water.”

The floods besieging Unity State has been described as the worst since the 1960’s.

The region was the worst hit during the conflict which began in 2013 in South Sudan which left 400,000 people dead and displaced four million others, slashing crude production and leading to economic chaos.

The majority of the people fleeing the current predicament had only returned home after the 2018 peace deal to restart lives destroyed in the war.

Farms are submerged, livestock lost and whole villages destroyed as people escape the advancing waters, a testament of climate change that is hitting the globe, the United Nations Children’s Agency.

Aid agencies have had to stop projects midway and relocate from the countryside to Bentiu or close shop and return to the country’s capital Juba.

The government is financially handicapped and helpless in the face of the calamity.

Water lilies and wild roots have replaced the cultural delicacies, walwal and milk.

Water borne diseases, diarrhoea, cough, and malaria are rife among the displaced people.

“Unity is the most affected state and over 200,000 people have been affected and displaced because all the villages are under water,” Mariam Said, the Field Operation Officer for UNICEF in Bentiu, said.

“They don’t have homes, they don’t have any place for livestock to graze and malnourishment is high in children.”

More than 835,000 people were reported as affected by flooding across the country since May, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, and most are vulnerable persons who were already getting difficulties in coping with life after the crisis.

People in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states are the worst affected by the floods.

Physical access continues to be a challenge to assess and respond to needs while funding constraints has made it difficult to meet increasing needs, UNOCHA said in an emailed statement.

“Schools have been closed, crops have failed, water pumps are under water,” Said said.

“As we go forward, we have to look at other developmental issues and one of them is how water resources are managed in the country.”

The months that lead to the end of the year and beginning of the new year experience dry spells in South Sudan but this year, the floods have not allowed the land to dry and without harvest, the country will go through the leanest season in 2022.

In Unity State, 90 percent of the population are on the run, according to the deputy governor, Tor Tunguar.

“This is a very unique flood, we call it a severe flood because it has displaced and left our people with no crops and the animals are dying,” Tunguar told Juba Echo.

The displaced people are in dire need for services and personal belongings including clothes.

According to Tunguar, the floods have been exacerbated by dams flooded in Uganda and “rivers in Congo converging on Unity State.”

While the United Nations have said the floods may take up to two years to subside, Tunguar believes the spell may take longer than that.

“To us, given the lowland, the nature of our lowland, this may continue more than two years,” he said.

“We feel that to construct now a better dyke that can never be breached by the water, that is the only way that will help us.”

At the Kadet Primary School displaced in Rubkhona, Angelina Nyapiu resolved not to let the flood get in her way of learning.

She has no books, can’t access soap for personal cleanliness and goes hungry for long, and when she chances on food, it’s a meagre plate to keep her tummy from grumbling.

“The school is the most important for our future and if you don’t come you will suffer,” Nyapiu told Juba Echo.

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