SOAP, buckets, and chlorine tablets are part of Tearfund’s response to flash floods that have affected almost one million people in South Sudan in the wake of unprecedented rainfall.
The UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported last Friday that thousands of people had been displaced from their homes and their livelihoods had been destroyed: “Many towns are completely submerged.”
On Monday, Tearfund’s country director in South Sudan, Jeff Mills, described how the floods, which prompted the country’s President, Salva Kiir Mayardit, to declare a state of emergency last month, had struck a population already largely living “hand to mouth”.
“They do not have access to the resources to be able to use cement and steel to build structures able to be withstand floods, or access to safety nets to provide whenever their harvests are lost,” he said. Infrastructure was also poor: only a few miles of tarmacked road existed in the country, which had “suffered under-development for generations”.
Flooding was not unusual in South Sudan, where the Nile often overflows its banks, he said. “What is very unusual is the extent of it. The rainy season has lasted much longer than normal; so whole communities have been flooded.”
The state of emergency covers 30 counties in three regions. The UN reports that, before the rains, three million people across the affected area were already in need of humanitarian assistance.
“The level of destruction caused by the floods is unfathomable,” the IOM’s South Sudan chief of mission, Jean-Philippe Chauzy, said last week. “People have nowhere to sleep, children are sick, there is no food to eat.”
Conscious of an increased risk of waterborne diseases, Tearfund is focusing on water and sanitation, through the provision of soap, water, buckets, and chlorine tablets. It is also providing seeds and tools, and cash that can be spent in local markets. Some of this is being distributed through the charity’s church partners, who are also working to take action on longer-term development and engaging in local peace-building work.