South Sudan On the Brink of Famine as It Braces for Worst Floods in 60 Years

South Sudan On the Brink of Famine as It Braces for Worst Floods in 60 Years

South Sudan On the Brink of Famine as It Braces for Worst Floods in 60 Years

South Sudan On the Brink of Famine as It Braces for Worst Floods in 60 Years

South Sudan is on alert for a looming human and climate disaster in coming months with the world’s youngest country expected to suffer its worst floods in 60 years that will drive parts of the country to the brink of famine, said Save the Children.

The child rights agency is warning of a devastating large-scale hunger crisis among children in South Sudan, in response to new data released yesterday by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network [FEWS NET] which shows massive floods will contribute to a risk of famine in South Sudan from June 2024 until January 2025. 

Families in the areas expected to be worst impacted have already been battling years of conflict, hunger, rising food prices, previous floods, and, more recently, an recent influx of refugees and returnees from the 15-month conflict  raging in Sudan.

Despite a peace deal in South Sudan in 2018, the country is still facing one of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises, with about 9 million people – about 75% of the population ­– including nearly 5 million children – in need of humanitarian assistance.

Unity State, a low-lying and flood prone region in the central northern part of the country, has been listed as particularly vulnerable to famine. The last formal declaration of famine anywhere in the world was in parts of Unity State in February 2017, where nearly 80,000 people faced famine conditions and mass deaths were only averted by an effective and rapid aid response.

The predicted famine is being driven in part by a major flooding event, which is expected to exceed the floods of 2020 and 2022. Current water levels in Lake Victoria, a source of the Nile, have reached a 128-year high, with the government of South Sudan issuing a warning that water released from the lake will flood vast parts of the country in the latter part of 2024. FEWS-NET estimates that the area impacted by flooding could exceed 65,000 km2 – or the equivalent of the entire land area of Sri Lanka.

Pornpun Jib Rabiltossaporn, Save the Children South Sudan Country Director, said:

“A horror scenario is unfolding in South Sudan. While floods are part of life for families in much of the country, we are seeing a situation where the floods will be so extreme, over such vast patches of land, that entire communities will be marooned from assistance. In some villages, families won’t be able to travel the distance required by boat to search for food, or an income, for months.

“With already extreme levels of hunger and malnutrition in children across South Sudan, and a massive conflict over the border forcing hundreds of thousands of people into crowded refugee camps, in all likelihood we will see children start to die from hunger-related illnesses as the flooding takes hold.  

“Save the Children is urgently finalising its flood anticipatory and response plan, prepping communities and prioritising the most vulnerable high-risk locations. However the alarm isn’t being heard widely enough. There is imminent disaster threatening communities in South Sudan. Unless there is an urgent scaling up of funding for preparation work, the upcoming floods are guaranteed to wreak havoc. We are going to see a large number of homes destroyed, roads and low-lying settlements flooded, and monumental levels of hunger.”

Across the border in Sudan, the fighting which broke out in April last year shows no signs of abating, with reports of massive casualties and extensive damage to critical infrastructure.  More than 700,000 people have crossed into South Sudan from Sudan in a bid to escape the horrific violence that continues in one of the world’s most neglected conflicts, according to the UN. Almost all have crossed through the Joda border crossing into Renk county in South Sudan which is already struggling with its own food crisis.

Besides Unity state, the flooding is projected to affect areas where many people are already vulnerable, including Jonglei, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile and Warrap states. People in most of these locations are already vulnerable due to multiple impacts, including previous flooding, conflict, displacement, food insecurity, and an influx of refugees and returnees conflict in Sudan.

Save the Children has worked in South Sudan since 1991. The child rights organisation provides children with access to education, healthcare and nutritional support, and families with food security and livelihoods assistance. In 2023, the organisation’s programmes reached over 1.9 million people including 1.1 million children and this year Save the Children hopes to reach 1.4 million people in South Sudan. 

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Save the Children.