Dimmed hope for flood affected children in South Sudan
Bor in South Sudan has been hit by terrible flooding, displacing residents and destroying livelihoods. Jimmy Tuhaise, Head of Humanitarian response for Save the Children in South Sudan, tells us about the situation and the children he has met.
The war-torn town had just started to return to normality as many refugees returned from across the East African region and began starting a new life. Bor is the capital town of the Great Jonglei state of South Sudan, famous for being one of the areas worst affected by the war in 2013. The name Bor means ‘valley’ and unsurprisingly it is a flood-prone area as a result. The rains of 2020 and the River Nile flooded the biggest part of Bor, displacing thousands of people. Homes, villages, schools, hospitals, and markets were all flooded and livestock was lost.
The floodwaters have remained for the whole year, deterring residents from returning to resettle in their homes. The few that have returned have come back to ruined homes that are still surrounded by water. The town of Bor has become an island, and can only be accessed by small boats and canoes. Only those that can afford a canoe can get around.
Houses damaged by floods in Bor, South Sudan.
I witnessed children swimming in contaminated stagnant waters, many have been reported to drown. Waterborne diseases such as acute diarrhoea, typhoid and so on are reported as rising. Many children have been employed in the canoe business of ferrying people across the floodwaters as a means to cater for their families.
Another rainy season for 2021 has already started and is expected to intensify in May. A resurgence of floods has dimmed hope for children returning home and hope of resuming school is lost.
I met Adumu, a single mother of 5 children. She recently returned to the Nigel community of Bor. She had just repaired the roof of her house but was cautious that this year’s rains are starting soon and that she and her family will be displaced again. She lost all her household items to floods last year.
I also talked to her daughter Yom who is 12 years old. She says, “I lost all my books, pencils and uniforms when our house flooded. I am happy we have returned to our house”. Yom does not know that another round of floods is approaching.
While Bor is a flood-prone area, the magnitude of the 2020 floods, which displaced over 404,000 people, were unprecedented. The 2021 rains and the likelihood of floods is eminent, yet, little has done to improve mitigation and prevention.
I ended my first day disheartened, thinking about the suffering and the future of children in Bor – their homes have been destroyed and more floods would disrupt their education. I have worked with Internally Displaced Persons and refugees in over 20 countries now and I know that recurring displacement is very traumatic to children and families.
On the second day, however, I started with a sense of hope, as I visited some of the flood Internally Displaced Persons settled in Bor. Save the Children is providing protection services such as case management and psycho-social support to children, has constructed temporally learning spaces to relocate the flooded school, and provided access to safe water. I shared the pride of Save the Children’s ‘winning team’ in Bor.
Save the Children has been providing humanitarian assistance to flood-affected communities and Internally Displaced Persons since the onset of the crisis, such as child protection, education, health, nutrition and livelihood support. Save the Children has relocated flooded schools to Temporally Learning Spaces, distributed non-food items and launched a full spectrum child protection program in Mangala IDP camp.
Adhiew* (8) at her temporary home In Mangala after fleeing floods in Bor in August 2020.
8-year-old Adhiew* and her family fled flooding in Bor in August 2020 to go to Mangala. Their situation in Mangala is quite desperate. They sleep in a shelter built using sticks and covered by a tent that is only able to cover part of the roof and sides. Adhiew told Save the Children:
I have not been to school since the flood came and here in the camp, there is no school. I hear there is a small school on the other side of the camp but it is now closed because of coronavirus. I feel bad that I don’t go to school and all my books, pens and school bag were destroyed by the flood.""Water is becoming a problem here, so, since I am older than the other children I have to help search for water. I also help my mother do some of the housework like cleaning or bathing my siblings.""I hope that I can go back to school soon."
Save the Children provided Adhiew and her family with some essential non-food items. They were provided with a tarpaulin sheet to roof the shelter, a mosquito net, collapsible water container, water purifier in form of water guard tablets and a hygiene kit that includes soap and sanitary pads.
While responding to 2020 floods, organisations like Save the Children need to raise awareness and secure funds to prepare flooding relief assistance such as tents, food items, school items, health and nutrition supplies and canoes so that we are prepared to respond to floods that are anticipated to ensue in May.