South Sudanese flood victims face food, medicine shortages

Ayen Achiek sat on a footpath in the city of Bor, South Sudan, with her sunken eyes searching for food and monetary assistance.

Achiek, 60, is not the only one whose home in Jonglei state’s town of Hai Marol was devastated by floods, forcing her to beg; many others can now be seen on the streets of the town situated on the east side of the Bahr al Jabal River.

The UN estimates that 700,000 people have been affected by flooding across the country since May.

The worst-affected states are Jonglei, Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Upper Nile. Heavy flooding has killed more than 30 people and ruined thousands of homes.

Flood victims complain about a shortage of food since their belongings were ruined or swept away by the water. And for Achiek, life is difficult since she lost everything when she was displaced by the floods.

“Food is scarce here … sometimes I have to beg on the roadside, but who is there to provide money sufficient to buy a meal?” Achiek told Anadolu Agency in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state.

Food donations are insufficient

“Our farms are unsuitable for cultivation now … Crops have been submerged, and our cows and goats have died due to water-related disease,” she said.

“Right now, we have our makeshift shelters erected on the main road leading to the riverbank. Most people are sleeping on the side of the road, which is where we sleep … I’m right there with five of my grandchildren,” she said.

Her house has long since been flooded, and she is worried that it may collapse, leaving them without a place to go when the area dries up, she added as her anxiety clears on her face.

Nyanachiek Dhol, a resident of Makuac Payam in Jonglei who got food from UN agencies, told Anadolu Agency that the food donations are insufficient because they have nowhere else to go.

“People get supplies from UN agencies and the government on occasion, but it’s not enough because there’s no work to augment the limited supply. We’re going hungry … many are attempting to cultivate, but their fields have been damaged by floods, and hunger has set in,” she added.

Health challenges

A state hospital in Bor is dealing with a slew of issues, including shortages of both medicine and skilled doctors.

Bol Chaw Manyang, medical director for the Bor State Hospital, said they have run out of anti-malaria, injectable antibiotics for bacterial infections, anti-venom, and anti-rabies for treating victims of dog bites.

“The first challenge is a lack of essential medicines to treat patients, compounded by the large number of patients that visit the hospital on a daily basis. On average, nearly 500 patients turn up at the hospital,” Manyang said, adding that they lack the capacity to admit many patients.

In addition, he said they are dealing with an increase in malaria cases following months of flooding.

“There has been a rise in the number of patients admitted in various wards and in the outpatient department,” he explained, and added, “All of this is due to the floods, and the hospital’s capacity to cope with them has been overwhelmed.”

Mary Aluel, a mother of three who has returned to Bor State Hospital for the third time in two months, said she has been treated for malaria and typhoid.

Talking to Anadolu Agency, she expressed concern that she would have to dig deep into her purse to buy drugs in private pharmacies because the hospital where she receives treatment at a lower cost has run out of drugs.

“The hospital has the capacity to treat diseases like malaria and typhoid, but sometimes drugs are not available in the hospital, so when you have the money, you buy from the pharmacy, but if you do not, then you continue to suffer,” said Aluel.

George Wani Worri, the Jonglei state coordinator for the World Health Organization (WHO), said there is an increase in the number of infections across the state, admitting the shortage of essential drugs.

“The WHO will try to bring drugs for emergencies, and the government would contribute drugs as well,” Wani explained. “However, drug consumption rates are really high, and there are some medicines that quickly fished in the hospital.”

$10M emergency aid package

South Sudan’s government approved a $10 million emergency aid package earlier this month to help families affected by floods in seven states throughout the country.

Michael Makuei Lueth, the national minister of information and communication, said the relief package approved by the Cabinet will be used to help resettle those displaced from their homes, in addition to providing food relief to them.

“The people who are displaced are very much affected by floods, and after the floods have subsided, they need to be resettled in their areas of origin because they don’t have anything at present and all that they need is to be rescued now,” Lueth added.

Save the Children, one of the international aid agencies in the country, said it is seeking $30 million from international donors to enable it to respond to thousands of flood-affected people in the country ahead of expected heavy rains in the upcoming months.

“Save the Children aims to provide life-saving and life-sustaining support to 918,500 extremely vulnerable children and 751,500 adults by 31st December 2021,” Rama Hansraj, the country director of Save the Children, told Anadolu Agency.

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