She said, “Ofcourse, I’m concerned about my children,” “That’s why I keep moving.”
After years of conflict, the new nation has barely had enough peacetime to build. Only 200 km of its roads have been paved. South Sudan is now dealing with biblical flooding that began in June, and are made worse by the climate crises, which it had very little control over.
South Sudan has had wetter than usual wet seasons for years. Meanwhile, its dry season is becoming more dry. While the rainy season has ended, the water that accumulated over months is yet to recede.
South Sudan is just one of many countries that are struggling with the twin problems of extreme rainfall and drought, which together can lead to devastating floods.
Ding Dinging is one of the few remote towns that remain abandoned. Many homes have traditional straw roofs that rise above the waterline. Their walls are still submerged.
People searching for food have taken to the floodwaters to eat the lilies, which are forming an entirely new ecosystem in this landscape.
This is a sad picture for a country only 10 years old. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but it was only two and a quarter years later that the country fell into civil war which ended last year. As people fight for increasingly scarce grazing land, deadly inter-communal violence continues.
Competing for resources
While South Sudan isn’t a stranger in the face of seasonal flooding, officials from Unity State claim that they haven’t experienced anything like this since the early 1960s. The flooding has affected ninety percent of the state’s territory, and the next rainy period is just five months away. Officials in Bentiu warn that the situation could get worse.
“We were told that the water behind us will not disappear now, it will not recede nor dry up. It’s going be a while, it’s very deep water,” stated Minister Lam Tungwar Kueigwong of the state’s ministry of land, housing, public utilities.
Scientists can now calculate how much the climate crisis might have contributed to extreme weather events. It is difficult to measure this region of the world with certainty, as it has so many variations in its natural climate.
The world is already 1.2 degrees Celsius hotter than before it industrialized, and Africa is experiencing greater temperature rises overall than the global average.
The climate crisis is already affecting South Sudanese people and gives the rest of the globe a glimpse at the potential complications.
“We feel climate change. John Payai Manyok is the country’s Deputy Chief for Climate Change.
“We are experiencing droughts, but we are also feeling floods. This is a crisis. It’s leading people to compete for scarce resources, which is leading to food insecurity.
Although droughts and floods might seem like opposites, they are actually more closely related than you might think.
“After prolonged periods of drought, soil may become hardened and may be very dried, and so you’re likely to get more (rainwater runoff), and that will exacerbate flooding risk,” Caroline Wainwright of the University of Reading, a climate scientist who studies East Africa.
“All this could help with bigger storms and more intense rain. This is something we might see more of — periods that are dry and really intense storms.
Now, the question is not just how to clean up but also how to adapt to these extreme weather events.
Manyok said that South Sudan’s neighboring countries are building permanent dikes and dams, but South Sudan has not adapted and remains dependent on its rivers. Human activity is also affecting the river’s health and ability to hold water during heavy rains.
Manyok stated that the country needs to be adaptable.
Manyok stated that “we must develop technologies that are water-friendly and efficient, and along Nile, we need to construct dams and eliminate the siltation.”
Siltation can be caused by soil erosion and sediment. This can cause rivers to become clogged with sediment, which can lead to flooding.
A school destroyed
The abandoned Swaths Of Rubkona, a market place near Unity State capital Bentiu has been renamed. These markets and homes lie ghostlike under the rising water, which continues to rise at an inexorable pace.
Nearby, Pakistani engineers are using the few heavy machinery available to repair and reinforce a hastily built mud dike. This has kept an airport and camp of almost 120,000 people on dry ground. UN officials claim that a breach of this dike would be catastrophic.
Each day, water continues to climb up the wall of the dike. It seeps onto the runway and towards the camp’s gates.
Most IDP’s arrived many years ago after fleeing South Sudan’s civil war. They now share space and less resources with the newcomers.
The capacity of the Doctors Without Borders camp hospital is at an all-time high. Since the flooding, staff have been treating an astronomical increase in malnourished infants.
“We had 130 cases over the past month. “Previously, we might only have 30-40 cases in a month,” KieJohn Kuol, Managing director, said.
Ding Ding’s school, which was rebuilt after it was destroyed during civil war, is now partially submerged in the water. Progress is being halted once more. UNICEF claims that flooding has impacted access to more 500 schools in South Sudan.
Kuol Gany is walking around his classroom when the water reaches him at his knees. Behind him is a chalkboard containing equations and English-language translations for words.
One definition of relief is: “Relief is the assistance provided to the people during disaster.”
Gany only taught in the new building for a few short years before the floods. He fears he will have to leave the building and his entire town.
He said, “It’s still growing, the water.” There are diseases and snakebites. We also drink this water.”.
James Ling, a Ding Ding resident, said that he returned briefly to his home of eight-years to see what he could salvage. He reached his home by wading through the water, but found nothing except the drawings of his children on the walls.
He said, “Since the conflict broke out, we have not had a break.” “We have been constantly running and displaced. Our children have not received any relief from the dangers.”