While water levels are continuing to rise, UNICEF in South Sudan launched a flash appeal asking for US$10 million to respond to the most immediate needs of children affected by the floods. Over 900,000 people in South Sudan, including 490,000 children, are in need of urgent assistance.
Almost one-fifth of the country, which is the size of France, is battling the extreme deluge of water. Entire communities, including health centres, nutrition centres and schools are submerged in water and up to 90 per cent of the basic services have been suspended in some areas. Most water sources in the affected areas are contaminated by the floodwater, posing a huge health risk for children.
“It is a liquid situation in all aspects,” said Dr Mohamed Ag Ayoya, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan. “The prevalence of malaria and waterborne diseases are increasing while children are cut off from essential services due to flooded buildings, impassable roads and destroyed bridges. Children are separated from their parents and over 70,000 families are displaced. The forecasts indicate the rain will continue for weeks, we don’t know when we will see the end of this.”
Almost 90,000 children are out of school due to flooded classrooms, teachers displaced, and schools used as shelters. Not only are children missing out on their education, but they also lack a safe space protecting them from exploitation and abuse. Going to school also represents a sense of normalcy in situations like these and are important for children’s mental wellbeing.
UNICEF is responding to the needs and was yesterday the first organization to get essential supplies to a severely flooded Pibor in Jonglei, where boats have taken over for cars in the streets. 4.8 tons of life-saving supplies were delivered by air.
Temporary nutrition and health centres are set up in tents or under mango trees for the continuation of services particularly important to children. Emergency latrines and temporary learning spaces are constructed. Water purification tablets are distributed, and awareness-raising teams are knocking on doors to make sure people, and especially children, know how to stay safe.
UNICEF plans for scaling up the response and reaching some of the more remote areas across Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity, Warrap, Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Unity and Eastern Equatoria, and are currently being finalized. That said, the magnitude of the crisis requires ‘all hands on deck’- a coordinated response with the Government and all partners supported by the international community.
“South Sudan was already one of the most dangerous countries to be a child, and now it got worse,” said UNICEF representative Ayoya. “The good news is that UNICEF was on the ground before the flood and could respond quickly. The actions we are taking today will determine for how long children will feel these floods after the water subsides.”