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The rising cost of the climate crisis in flooded South Sudan – in pictures | Global development
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The rising cost of the climate crisis in flooded South Sudan – in pictures | Global development

Nyanyang Tong, 39, on her way to the Action Against Hunger centre with her one-year-old son, Mamuch Gatkuoth, in Paguir.


Families in desperate situations in flood-ravaged communities South SudanAfter another summer of heavy rainfall, people are spending hours looking for water lilies to eat.

After three years of floods, people are starving and have no land to grow food. Fields are submerged in last year’s flood water and higher ground is overcrowded with hungry people, in what is quickly becoming a humanitarian crisis.

Fangak is one of the most affected areas of the country. 31 counties devastated by the floods, continues to lose ground due to rising water. The high waters are displacing communities along the banks the White Nile River.

Nyanyang Tong, 39, on her way to the Action Against Hunger centre with her one-year-old son, Mamuch Gatkuoth, in Paguir.

  • Nyanyang tong, 39, is on her way from the Action Against HungerIn Paguir, she is pictured at the centre with her one year-old son Mamuch Gatkuoth.

“We have been chased out of our home by the flood water and now we’re heading to Old Fangak to look for a place to sleep tonight … [but] I don’t know any other place where we can go after tonight. If so, we will make a small grass island and sleep above the water,” says Nyadut Gatkuoth, a woman migrating with her relatives to the central market area in Old Fangak, one of the few areas on higher ground.

A cow eats the remains of a collapsed roof

Last year, people fled their mud homes that had collapsed and slept out under trees or in abandoned school buildings. But this year, many of these areas have been flooded. An estimated 1.7 million people are displaced within South SudanPeople are reporting that they have been forced from their homes to seek higher ground at least twice during the past year. Others have crossed the border into Sudan, giving up.


According to the UN, there are more than 780,000 people have been affectedFlooding has already affected over 200,000 people in Fangak so far. This number is expected increase over the next few months. Action Against Hunger estimates that floods in Fangak will cause flooding to affect nearly all of the affected counties. This is a jump of 75% to almost 100% in just a few months. The country has also been affected. 8 million people in needThe UN says so.

Since 2020, many people have been unable to cultivate the land. Many of those who lost this year’s harvest also lost their livestock to diseases caused by the animals grazing on flooded fields. People are forced to look for wild food because they don’t have the traditional milk and meat that cattle provide. In the absence of fishing nets or canoes, entire families are dependant on collecting water lilies by the dozen to grind into a small day’s meal.

A family collect water lilies

“We are not used to collecting water lilies but the flood water forces us to. We can spend close to five hours looking for them in the water,” says Bol Kek, a mother of seven children living on the higher ground of Paguir, “[but] when you eat water lilies it feels like you didn’t eat at all.”

Nyatot Garang and Nyadieng Riok search for water lily bulbs in Paguir
Majiel Duoth, 35, stands in front of his flooded home in an area of Old Fangak
Nyatot Garang holds water lily bulbs
Nyadieng Riok with water lily bulbs

According to scientists in the region, the cumulative effects of loss of harvests and cattle deaths, as well as floods, have led to the collapse traditional livelihoods. Water lilies, fish, and other aquatic plants are not sustainable food sources over the long-term because there will be less access to wild foods in the rainy season, particularly for poor households that don’t have canoes. This will again lead to acute food insecurity.

Though efforts have been made in preparation for this year’s floods, humanitarian food distribution has been hampered by insufficient funding. Distributions have been delayed and food distributions have been reduced to prioritize those most in need. This has occurred at the expense of other communities. An estimated 2.5 million people are facing severe food insecurityAnd more 100,000 are considered close to famine.

Nyawech Giel holds ground water lilies

  • ‘These water lilies that we eat don’t have nutrients. We eat them because we need to fill our stomach, but soon after you eat them you will start feeling hungry again,’ says Nyawech Giel, 53

Nyadiang Gak, a mother who migrated to higher ground in the hopes of cultivating this year, says: “We used to plant maize and sorghum at the same time, so when the maize was finished we could harvest the sorghum. Now it is time to harvest sorghum but we couldn’t even plant it … I planted maize next to my home but when the second flood came it destroyed it and I didn’t even get to harvest it … Now we are hungry.”

Nyadiang Gak, 50, from Lakabang, stands beside her flooded and destroyed crops

  • ‘Before these two floods I had a kitchen garden that put food on the table, and I was also able to send my children to school in Old Fangak. But because of these floods they can’t go because I don’t have anything to support them with,’ says Nyadiang Gak

Floods are affecting more communities, and people who travel to other areas face the threat of being attacked or having their food supplies stolen. Four deaths from violence against humanitarian workers this year were caused by an increase in food prices. In September 2020, the price for 3.5kg of sorghum powder, a staple food of the country, was approximately 800 South Sudanese pounds (about £4.50) but this year it has increased 60% to 1,300 SSP. This trend is expected to continue. South Sudan’s economy expected to contract by 4% in 2021According to the World Bank, it is.

According to the UN, South Sudan is one the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Global Climate Index. Covid-19 has made it more difficult to cope with frequent extreme weather events, such as flooding, due to food insecurity, conflict, and financial problems. The three consecutive floods that were caused by heavy rain will only increase the vulnerability of the country to future extreme weather events like flooding. get worse in South Sudan and the wider regionA recent report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), predicted that global temperatures would continue to rise if they do.

James Ruach scoops flood water
Nyakueni Both, 12, tries daily in vain to bail water out of her inundated home daily with the help of her twin sister, Nyagak
A church congregation stand on a flooded football pitch to sing and pray for an end to the flooding in Old Fangak.
Volunteers build a large dyke to contain the flood water, which has inundated the local football pitch

  • Volunteers fight to push back flood waters, including from a football pitch, where it’s hoped food aid could be delivered

Although floods occur every year during the rainy season (May to October), scientists claim that recent flooding in Fangak county has been exceptionalIn terms of intensity and duration. The main theory behind the flooding is that upstream water saturated local wetlands, which are likely to have absorbed water in previous decades.

The conditions in the most affected areas are dire. Old Fangak doesn’t have electricity or water. The boreholes have been contaminated by dirty water, and the water is now surrounded by sewage. The same flood water that is used for cooking and drinking by people is used for feeding animals and children.

Par Both pushes mud out of his home in Paguir

  • ‘Pushing this mud out of the house is painful on my knees,’ says Par Both, 34, from Paguir

“It is a real struggle being here with this water. There are many diseases. This child and I both have a cough, and all of this because of the water,” says David Deng, who is blind and being led through the flood water by his granddaughter, Angelina, in Old Fangak.

Several villages have disappeared underwater since last year. Many people sleep on open islands made of dry grass. The number of cases of snake bites has risen dramatically.

David Deng, who is blind, navigates his way through the floods with the help of his nine-year-old granddaughter, Angelina Nyagok.

  • Blind David Deng navigates through floods with the help Angelina Nyagok, his nine-year old granddaughter.

The encroaching waters are constantly pushing children further away from schools. Children in remote areas have been left without education for over two years because of the floods and the pandemic. The communities that still have homes flush out water every hour and fix mud dykes that are prone to breaking almost daily.

Nyapini Yiel is a mother of two young children who lost her home two week ago. She speaks out about the dire situation of those living in the climate crisis’ frontlines. “I’m tired of building dykes all the time and flushing water out all the time … so when it broke that night I couldn’t do anything because it was dark and my children and I were alone at home, so we just went back to sleep. We slept on top of the bed even while the water was coming inside the house.”

Nyapini Yiel, 23, lies in her bed surrounded by flood water.

  • Nyapini Yiel (23), lies in her bed, surrounded flood water

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