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Thousands in South Sudan Brace for Potentially Disastrous Rainy Season

FILE - Displaced people in the town of Bor, South Sudan, queue to collect food aid. (Kate Bartlett/VOA)
FILE - Displaced people in the town of Bor, South Sudan, queue to collect food aid. (Kate Bartlett/VOA)

Aid agencies warn hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese are likely to suffer devastating consequences during this year’s wet season without emergency international support to head off the worst impacts.

Record rainfall over the past three years has affected an estimated 835,000 people, killed nearly 800,000 livestock and flooded thousands of hectares of farmland, preventing people from cultivating the waterlogged land.

Last year, South Sudan had its worst flooding in history. Forecasters expect this year’s rainy season, which begins in May, will be even worse. The U.N. refugee agency says 33 out of 79 counties remain badly affected by the flood waters, which have not significantly subsided since the last wet season.

It says thousands of people have been displaced in harshest-hit Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states. Andrew Harper, special adviser on climate action to the UNHCR, has just returned from a visit to South Sudan. He warns the country is at the center of a potential catastrophe.

"We have got villages, which are hosting tens of thousands of people who are doing whatever they can to resist the onslaught of an increasingly hostile climate…The roads and logistics of getting supplies and support throughout South Sudan are pretty horrible at the best of times and so these roads no longer exist for the vast number of locations,” said Harper.

Harper says intercommunal ethnic-based violence is endemic in the country. That, he says, poses security problems for aid workers and their ability to reach needy people.

He says the dangers also discourage villagers in unsafe climate zones from moving to other areas, where they might face violence.

"The other issue that will be coming to the fore is the food insecurity,” said Harper. "As you have crops wiped out, as you have livestock dying, season after season you have this compounded series of disasters and a lack of international response in terms of providing support for food security, then you will be facing a situation of a famine in that region.”

Harper appeals to the international community to step up support for the people of South Sudan. Otherwise, he warns the climate crisis, coupled with ongoing insecurity in the country, will leave people with no means to survive.