Climate Change Environment Human Rights Sub-Saharan Africa

South Sudan in Ruins: Severe Floods Interfere with Socio-Economic Redevelopment

It may be the beginning of a new year, but South Sudan already has its hands full with a myriad of challenges. On top of economic stagnation, famines, and COVID-19, the nation is now combatting its latest catastrophe, severe flooding.

It may be the beginning of a new year, but South Sudan already has its hands full with a myriad of challenges. On top of economic stagnation, famines, and COVID-19, the nation is now combatting its latest catastrophe, severe flooding. As South Sudan experiences the worst flooding in its history, economic and social developments are indefinitely at a standstill. Considering the widespread impact of the storm, the international community must aid South Sudan to alleviate the prolonged consequences the floods have created. 

South Sudan’s economy has been stagnant for years, having settled into a slump when the nation became encapsulated in a devastating civil war from 2013-2018. The war had dramatic consequences for the nation, resulting in nearly 400,000 casualties and over 2 million forced displacements. Additionally, as the war took place on large oil platforms, the majority of South Sudan’s oil rigs were entirely destroyed. Consequently, millions of dollars were lost, and the nation is now producing only 175,000 barrels of oil per day, compared to over 350,000 barrels per day prior to the war. South Sudan has faced numerous hurdles as they have attempted to rebuild  their nation, and over half of the population has been thrown into extreme poverty.

In this weakened state, the recent months of severe flooding are wreaking havoc on South Sudan, and each crashing wave is knocking the nation off of its feet.

One of the most critical consequences of the flooding is national starvation. South Sudan’s agricultural sector was already weakened by the war when the nation plunged into a devastating food crisis, one that the UN Security Council declares as the “worst in the world.” Now that the plantations are entirely destroyed by the floods, it is impossible for the South Sudanese farmers to grow or harvest any crops. The UN estimates since June 2020, nearly a million South Sudanese citizens have grappled with inadequate food, water, and shelter. At this rate, around 7 million citizens are projected to face severe food insecurity by the end of this year. Despite these findings, South Sudan’s government is adamantly denying the existence of the food crisis, deterring the administration of humanitarian aid.

An equally severe obstacle South Sudan faces is the ongoing healthcare crisis. With already contaminated soil and water, the floodwaters have exasperated illnesses. Citizens have become significantly more susceptible to a range of diseases, such as malaria, measles, and cholera. A large number of villages are entirely submerged and are, therefore, completely disconnected from essential services. Certainly, the unsuccessful prevention of these issues is largely accreditable to both the absence of strong federal health workforce retention policies and the shortage of trained healthcare workers, in all categories. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the national lack of medical resources to adequately diagnose and treat patients is particularly alarming since it is already nearly impossible to identify and prevent coronavirus infections

Conducting these international projects to aid South Sudan is in the best interest of its neighboring countries as well. The refugee crisis in this geopolitical area is being fueled by South Sudan’s inability to provide its people with food, water, and shelter. Inevitably, the two  million displaced citizens are flooding into all six bordering countries: Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Central African Republic. In doing so, they are burdening the host countries by magnifying their demands for basic resources, health services, and infrastructure. The longer this refugee crisis continues, the weaker each neighboring country will become.

To help provide relief for South Sudan, several international organizations have emergency aid projects underway. The Food and Agriculture Organization is providing over 100,000 families with seeds to grow their own food, as well as vaccinating over 5 million animals to ensure food safety. The World Food Program is transporting health care workers, food, and supplies for the flood victims, and also collaborating with the United Nations Children’s Fund to distribute soap and buckets to South Sudanese families. Additionally, the International Organization for Migration is working to contain the spread of the coronavirus by distributing locally produced face masks to thousands of citizens, providing professional training on COVID-19 prevention strategies, and hosting a podcast program with the goal of teaching the younger generations how to respond to the pandemic. 
In addition to current aid efforts, more organizations must join in offering relief.

As one of the world’s poorest countries, South Sudan’s socio-economic sectors are incredibly difficult to rebuild. Their broken economy, food crisis, and healthcare crisis are plaguing the population, and the recent flooding has exacerbated all of these issues. Since South Sudan’s government is unable to alleviate these issues, political tensions are continuing to intensify not only within the nation, but beyond its borders as well.

Although this is a disastrous situation for South Sudan, it is also mobilizing the international community to address the nation’s growing humanitarian crisis that has largely been void of assistance. In order to ensure that South Sudan overcomes the flooding crisis and rebuilds its economy, we must significantly increase our allocation of attention and resources to the nation. Ultimately, NGOs and grassroots organizations need to push their governments to create and finance multilateral proposals to address these pressing issues.   

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By Christine Sohn

Christine is a staff writer for the Journal on World Affairs at UCLA. She is currently in her second year studying International Development and Asian American studies, and she is passionate about international relations, civil rights, and environmental politics.

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