South Sudan Floods - The inextricable link between climate and violence

Source(s)
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Headquarters

As the upper corridor of South Sudan is overwhelmed by floods, the words on everyone’s lips - here we go again. Climate change is not only subjecting children to hunger and distress, it’s also displacing thousands of families and compounding the impacts of violence. Find out how War Child is working to meet urgent needs.

Torrential rains and seasonal flows are nothing new to South Sudan. Yet, the latest spate of extreme flooding - for the third year in a row - is signaling a new era of climate-inflicted destruction.

From Jonglei State in the central belt to the Upper Nile, all the way to the Sudanese border, children and families are bearing the brunt. As of October 2021, more than 623,000 people in 8 states have been affected - some two-thirds of whom were already battling unprecedented food insecurity with schools, homes, health facilities and local water sources overwhelmed.

Why were these families so vulnerable in the first place? There is no one answer. Internal armed conflict, displacement and economic crisis - all exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic - have exposed the population, especially women and children, to untold suffering in recent months. 

Exposed and On The Move

77% of people affected are in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile. War Child is active in some of the most heavily affected areas - including Tonga Town in Upper Nile State. Family homes have been completely submerged in water, with children living in makeshift structures or sleeping rough out in the open.

Hot sun, lack of food and contaminated water are also putting children at risk of waterborne diseases such as malaria, typhoid, diarrhea and pneumonia.
Forced off their land and into crowded and hostile places, children are exposed to physical abuse and sexual exploitation. With education interrupted, many are resorting to unruliness and other negative coping mechanisms.

Lack of safe play spaces is compounding these dangers - unaided by access challenges experienced by War Child and other aid organisations. War Child refuses to hang around.

As part of their accelerated emergency response, they have erected ‘Child Friendly Spaces’ in Tonga, Malakal Town, Lul and Pigi Canal. These mobile spaces - where children can play and let go of tension - also support referral to vital protection and case management services.

To improve the capacity of parents and caregivers to provide a protective environment for children, War Child is also engaging them in positive-parenting skills development. 

New Threats Facing Children in Conflict

While War Child does not claim to be an expert on climate, nor does it turn a blind eye to the defining crisis of our time. “Climate change and its effects are inextricably linked to - and arguably even perpetuate - violence”, says Kevin Ndemera, War Child Country Director in South Sudan. “In my country, we are seeing this first-hand.”

We also recognise that our very mission - to increase the resilience of children affected by conflict - has implications for climate change. War Child began offsetting its CO2 emissions in 2019 and will seek to further reduce its emissions - particularly for transport, purchase of hardware and use of electricity - in the years to come.

By working with a range of actors in contexts like South Sudan, the global NGO also complements messaging on adaptive measures to reduce the impact of climate change on children and families.

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