As Floods Soak South Sudan, ACF Steps Up with Proven Solutions

Our water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) advisor for East Africa talks flood season and emergency response.
Flooded crops and home in South Sudan
A flooded home and crops. Photo: ACF-South Sudan.

Some things never change, even for the newest country in the world: South Sudan has been hit by another round of flooding. The period from August to October is known as the “flood season,” and each year thousands of people are displaced, and property and crops are destroyed.

This year has seen the worst floods in five years, but the good news is that in some areas, humanitarian actors and communities were prepared and a humanitarian emergency was minimized.

Across the country 245,902 people have been affected. Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Unity states in the North of the country as well as Jonglei state in the East have the most widespread flooding. Action Against Hunger is a part of the inter-agency response in the Northern Bahr el Ghazal state where over 7,200 people (about 1,200 households) have been displaced, according to a recent report by the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

When it floods in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, people move to higher ground, which is often railway or road sections that are elevated or to emergency sites established by the government. Many people have converged near Aweil town where, despite access problems, some aid is being delivered.

The inter agency assessment to the area showed that health, shelter, food, and water were priority needs. While malaria, diarrhea and eye infection cases are on the rise, the local health centre is flooded. Also worrying is the fact that livelihood activities have been disrupted, household food stocks have been soaked and crops in production have been destroyed.  Several schools have collapsed and there are reported tensions with the host community.

While health actors are maintaining a mobile clinic to serve displaced populations, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) actors have been mobilized in the prevention of disease. Open defecation has been observed, water sources have been flooded and contaminated, and simple household hygiene items have been lost (IA assessment report, 18 September 2012).

An important part of averting an all out disaster in the face of risk is to be prepared. Action Against Hunger’s WASH team in South Sudan was well prepared and is currently busy responding to these basic needs in order to prevent disease within this vulnerable population alongside other actors in the area. Action Against Hunger’s country team had previous training in emergency response to be ready to react in a quick, coordinated and effective manner. Additionally, Action Against Huger ensured that resources were in place in advance, namely stocks of hygiene related non-food items as well as specialized equipment for water supply like generators and submersible pumps.

Action Against Hunger has provided 299 vulnerable households (about 1,800 people) with hygiene kits, including essential items such as jerry cans, soap, buckets, and PUR water purification powders (which are effective on turbid waters, common in a flood situation). Additionally, 497 households (some 3,000 people) participated in hygiene promotion activities that focused on raising awareness of risks to disease, especially simple, but improved excreta disposal methods. As the floodwaters subside, Action Against Hunger’s technical WASH team will begin the process of cleaning and disinfecting contaminated water points for the longer term.

Special thanks to ACF’s WASH Program Coordinator in South Sudan, Rangaiya Kanaganathan, for his assistance with this piece.

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About Trayle Kulshan

Trayle Kulshan

Trayle is our Interim Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Advisor for East Africa.