Nearly 200 000 displaced as unprecedented flooding hits South Sudan


Heavy rains caused unprecedented flooding in the northeastern part of South Sudan, forced 200 000 residents to evacuate, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said October 18, 2019. The affected area, located in the Upper Nile region, is home to over 150 000 refugees from Sudan.

The agency said in a statement that floodwaters have submerged major roads, making it difficult to travel to refugee camps. Access to public services including hospitals were also affected. Sanitation facilities were damaged, increasing health risks. Moreover, the situation prompted schools to cancel classes. 

"We remain concerned that the flooding may increase the risks and spread of diseases. South Sudan was recently declared cholera free last year with the fears that the deadly disease could make a comeback," UNHCR said.

The agency is now working with its partners and the local authorities in conducting emergency support as soon as possible. The affected residents are seeking safety wherever there is land, mostly on small islands as the floodwater levels have swept vast areas.

The region near Maban's capital town of Bunj experiences usual flooding due to heavy seasonal rains. Water from Ethiopian highlands, where rainfall is becoming heavier, is sweeping across neighborhoods in raging rivers as well.

"Refugees and South Sudanese locals fled their homes, carrying their belongings and seen gathering together on little islands of dry ground," Adan Ilmi, UNHCR’s Representative to South Sudan, stated. "Floodwaters have submerged, making access to the refugee camps difficult for humanitarians. Schools in the region also remain closed."

Ilmi added, "UNHCR and partners together with the government have already begun assessments in refugee camps in Maban and surrounding communities. Among the main needs identified so far are emergency shelter, food, water, and sanitation. Refugees and local communities urgently need international support as it faces one of the worst floodings within the last decades."

UNHCR has prepared emergency shelter kits and material aid to help over 5 000 families and some 25 000 locals to rebuild their homes. However, the agency said the affected population is still in dire need of assistance.

Featured image credit: @sadighassan3/Twitter


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