Catastrophic flooding affects thousands of families in conflict-ridden Pibor
By Mach Samuel
Thousands of families already struggling because of ongoing violence in Pibor are in desperate need of further assistance after severe flooding washed away houses, livestock, and farmland in the Jonglei region of South Sudan.
Torrential rain has caused major damage across the region with the combination of a stream bursting its banks and the overflow from the Kengen, Lothila and Kubal rivers causing massive floods across Pibor.
More than 2000 households are now in need of urgent assistance. The situation remains particularly volatile for eight counties located along the river. Latilak, Babuzen, Vertek, Likuangole, Pochalla, Ajwara, Pibor North and South Counties have seen their farms wiped out and children are unable to get to school.
One resident, Mary Korok Marybuk, says her family is suffering after water flooded her home.
“A lot of water came into my house. The children have nowhere to sleep. We eat some greens, that’s the only thing we can get to eat,” she said. “Our biggest problem is lack of food and housing. There is no grass here for making a house. We need a tent. This river brings coldness to the children and most of them are sick.”
There are serious concerns for the health of the local community with the increased risk of waterborne diseases. The maternity ward at the hospital remains under water and malaria cases are on the rise.
“Before the water, life was not so bad. But, at the same time, our country is suffering. Now with this water, we have many problems, hunger, diseases, nowhere to sleep,” said Pibor resident, Nyaidok Olivia. “We are asking for people to come and help us.”
If water continues to rise, access to the area via the Pibor airstrip could be affected. The state legislative assembly has been damaged and many government officials have been cut off from their offices.
The acting Governor of Boma, Omot Ogul Abai, is appealing for urgent assistance.
“If the NGOs can assist with some shelters, cooking materials, then food, then mosquito nets because, if there is flooding, a lot of things will affect the people,” he said.
An assessment team serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan visited the area to find many homes destroyed, cattle and other livestock missing or dead, and entire crops wiped out.
Indian peacekeepers and police from the Mission are providing security for assessment teams and facilitating the safe delivery of aid by the many humanitarian agencies assisting in the region.
People are trying to carry on with their lives as best they can. Some are able to take canoes to get to the local market, most of which is under water. Food is selling at premium prices because of the scarcity of products with 50kg bags of maize flour costing 30,000 South Sudanese pounds (US$16).
Schoolchildren are wading through water to get a government-provided boat to cross to the Pibor School although many remain stranded in their homes.
UNMISS Head of the Field Office, Deborah Schein, said that immediate assistance was needed to alleviate the suffering of the flood-affected population. “Even when the water subsides, considering the large loss of crops and livestock, the population will continue to need support,” she said.