By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Khartoum: On a scrap of land surrounded by flooding in South Sudan, families drink and bathe from the waters that swept away latrines and continue to rise.
About one million people in the country have been displaced or isolated for months by the worst flooding in memory, with the intense rainy season a sign of climate change. The waters began rising in June, washing away crops, swamping roads and worsening hunger and disease in the young country struggling to recover from civil war. Now famine is a threat.
On a recent visit by our reporter to the Old Fangak area in hard-hit Jonglei state, parents spoke of walking for hours in chest-deep water to find food and health care as malaria and diarrhea diseases spread.
Nyaduoth Kun, a mother of five, said the floods destroyed her family’s crops and life has been a struggle for months, with people selling their prized cattle to buy food that’s never enough.
READ ALSO: Flashing Floods Sweep Tourists, Six Dead
The family eats just two meals a day and the adults often go to bed on empty stomachs, she said. She has begun collecting water lilies and wild fruits for food.
The chief of Wangchot village, James Diang, made the decision early during the flooding to send badly affected children to the town centre after several drowned “and everything was being destroyed rapidly.”
“Now cattle are dying, he said, and survivors have been transported to drier areas.
Remaining residents are eating tree leaves and sometimes fish to survive. Fevers and joint pain are widespread.
When there is no canoe to transport people during times that waters surge, our children die in our hands because we are helpless,” he said.
The people of South Sudan put their trust in President Salva Kiir and former armed opposition leader Riek Machar to lead during this transition period, “but now they are failing us,” said the government’s acting deputy director in the area, Kueth Gach Monydhot. “We don’t have hope, we lost confidence in them.”
The situation in Fangak county remains volatile, with almost all of its more than 60 villages affected by the flooding and “no response from the government,” he said. “Do you think they will plan for other people when they have failed to implement the peace agreement?”
The Doctors Without Borders project co-ordinator in Old Fangak, Dorothy Esonwune, recalled the sight of newly displaced people sheltering under trees without mats, blankets or mosquito nets.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization representative in South Sudan, Meshak Malo, has appealed to the parties that signed the country’s peace accord to cease violence and ensure safe humanitarian access to prevent the dire situation from turning into a full-blown catastrophe.
“The new report of likely famine is an eye-opener and a signal to the government, which has not endorsed its findings,” said the chairman of the National Bureau of Statistics, Isaiah Chol Aruai.
“There is no way that the government would ignore or downplay an emergency when it’s really found out to be an emergency,” he added.