South Sudan’s Unity State may be flowing with oil, but a lack of rain has left its farmers in fear of their livelihoods. When the rain does fall, it pours down in torrents, flooding out desperate residents already displaced by conflict.
“We have had very poor cultivation compared to any other year,” said Nhial Gatluak, a farmer from Payinjiar County. “Crops are dying due to a lack of rain and there will be an outbreak of hunger soon,” he said.
Death by starvation or snake bite
“Most of the crops have been destroyed by a lack of rain (from May to July),” said David Yoak, another resident of Payinjiar County. “And to be honest, I cannot tell you now that there will be no floods in August,” he said, adding that he had already heard predictions of hunger due to the lack of harvests.
Since 2012 about 60,000 people have been displaced by floods in Payinjiar and Mayiandit counties, more so than any other county in Unity State.
In Mayiandit, the area in South Sudan most affected by floods – 40,000 have left their homes since 2012 – residents face the threat of poisonous snakes.
“We have received about 41 cases of snake bites,” said Gabriel a health care nurse in Mayiandit. “We lost one patient, a child under five years, because of the floods. We don’t have enough antibiotics to manage such a case,” he said.
Gabriel and his colleagues don’t have access to roads, so they are unable to refer patients to Leer or other locations for treatment.
Natural disasters worsened by man-made ones
Most of the areas heavily affected by previous floods have been vacated by residents due to ongoing conflicts between armed opposition forces allied to former Vice-President Riek Machar and those belonging to government forces associated to President Salva Kiir.
“There is not enough rain this year, but most people don’t settle and plant their crops because the situation between the two warring parties keeps escalating,” added Nurse Gabriel. “Most people are on the run because they fear deadly ethnicity targeting,” he said.