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Nearly 1M people in South Sudan displaced by floods

Nearly 1M people in South Sudan displaced by floods
© MAZEN MAHDI/AFP via Getty Images

Nearly 1 million people in South Sudan have been displaced or isolated by months of flooding, which The Associated Press noted this week is the worst in recent memory. 

Waters in the northeast African country began to rise in June, washing away crops and swamping roads, with the threat of famine now looming. 

The AP recently traveled to the Old Fangak area in the hard-hit Jonglei state, where the newswire spoke with local citizens who described experiences of walking for hours in chest-deep water to find food and health care. 

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Regina Nyakol Piny, a mother of nine, now lives in a primary school after her home was overcome by flood waters. 

“We don’t have food here, we rely only on UN humanitarian agencies or by collecting firewood and selling it,” she told the AP. “My children get sick because of the floodwaters, and there is no medical service in this place.”

As the coronavirus pandemic ravages much of the world, infecting a total of more than 84 million people and killing approximately 1.8 million, Nyaduoth Kun, a mother of five, told the AP that she has very little knowledge of the virus spreading largely undetected in South Sudan. 

“There are many diseases living among us, so we can’t figure out if it’s coronavirus or not,” she explained. 

The government’s acting deputy director in the Old Fangak area, Kueth Gach Monydhot, said the country’s president, Salva Kiir, and former armed opposition leader Riek Machar have been entrusted with supporting local populations impacted by the flooding, but the leaders are now “failing” their citizens. 

“We don’t have hope, we lost confidence in them,” the deputy director told the AP. 

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In February, Kiir and Machar announced a unity government following seven years of civil war in the country, but groups have noted that the recent flooding has led to continued violence and threatens chances at a stable peace in the nation. 

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization representative in South Sudan, Meshak Malo, has urged the parties that signed the country’s peace agreement to cease violence and ensure safe humanitarian access to prevent the situation in the country from worsening, the AP reported. 

In late September, the U.N. World Food Programme country director in South Sudan, Matthew Hollingworth, said immediate action was needed to aid South Sudan to avoid “catastrophic hunger” levels. 

“We’ve been seeing natural disasters, we’ve been seeing conflicts displacing people — that is the situation we’re in right now,” he explained. “We have yet to get data back to confirm how bad it will be, but I think we all need to prepare ourselves that we must do everything in our power to avoid famine and to avoid the levels of hunger ... that we’ve seen sadly in the past in this country.”