HEAVY rains and flash flooding have destroyed homes and affected thousands of people in Sudan and South Sudan, some of whom have sought refuge in churches.
The United Nations said that at least 800,000 people had been affected in the two countries, as rivers, including the Nile, burst their banks.
Weather forecasters predict that the rainy season will last up to three months longer than usual, and more heavy rain is forecast in South Sudan.
Last year’s devastating floods were among the worst ever recorded. More than three million people were affected when torrential rains destroyed crops; fields were still submerged months later, and entire villages had to be abandoned. About 100,000 people were still displaced as a result of last year’s floods when the torrential rain started again this summer.
South Sudanese refugees living across the border in refugee camps in Sudan have been among some of the worst hit so far, as temporary shelters collapsed under the deluge of rain. Nearly 50 villages in South Sudan are submerged, leaving thousands without homes.
The UN has said that many people are now living on the streets, and are at risk of disease from the standing water. “Floods have exacerbated the vulnerability of communities, with many displaced seeking refuge in churches and schools. Health facilities have been impacted,” a statement from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
Fr James Oyet Latansio, a Roman Catholic priest and the general secretary of the South Sudan Council of Churches, told the World Council of Churches that many refugees had been displaced by the rains from their temporary shelters.
“The areas most affected by floods are Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Unity State. The floods have also affected the poor infrastructure, agricultural land, shelters, and homes of communities. Also affected are the internally displaced persons who have been forced out of their villages by violence,” he said.
Four-fifths of South Sudan’s population live in “absolute poverty” after years of civil war and continuing violence, and 60 per cent are living with severe hunger, the UN estimates.
Communities in flooded areas are urgently in need of clean water and sanitation kits, as well as food and medicine, but floodwater is making access difficult to some areas.
Pope Francis has donated $75,000 (£55,000) in emergency aid to South Sudan for flood victims. The money will go to the diocese of Malakal, which has a population of about 2.7 million.
The money is “intended to express Pope Francis’ feelings of spiritual closeness and paternal encouragement to the people and territories affected”, the Vatican said in a statement.