At least 623 000 people have been affected by widespread flooding in South Sudan since May, with many forced to flee their homes, the United Nations said.
Rivers broke their banks following heavy rains, deluging houses and farms in eight of the country’s 10 states, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a briefing note on Thursday.
Jonglei and Unity states are the worst hit, representing 58 per cent of those affected, the emergency-response agency said.
Aid workers are using canoes and boats to reach stranded populations, with more than two-thirds of the affected areas now facing the risk of hunger as food prices shoot up, recording a 15-per cent jump since August, it added.
“Schools, homes, health facilities and water sources were inundated, impacting people’s access to basic services,” the note read.
“Physical access remained a major challenge for humanitarian organisations to assess and respond to the needs of flood-affected people.”
Some families have been able to flee to the capital, Juba, while others have set up makeshift camps along highways, grabbing what few possessions they could from the ruins of their flimsy thatched huts.
In some parts of the country, violence between rival communities has forced tens of thousands of people to leave their homes while also complicating emergency workers’ efforts to help flood-battered communities.
UN teams have struggled to get aid to Warrap, a northwestern state plagued by ethnic violence, which is now battling a measles outbreak.
Meanwhile, about 80 000 people have been uprooted from their homes in Western Equatoria state in the country’s southwest as a result of the fighting which erupted in June, OCHA said, with some fleeing to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The agency last month warned of limited supplies and a funding shortage, saying that it had only received 54 per cent of the $1.7bn required to pay for programmes in the country.
Funding shortages have also forced the UN World Food Programme to suspend food aid to more than 100 000 displaced people in South Sudan, the agency said last month, warning of further reductions unless it received more cash.
Four out of five of South Sudan’s 11 million people live in “absolute poverty”, according to the World Bank in 2018, while more than 60 per cent of its population suffers from severe hunger from the combined effects of conflict, drought and floods.
Since achieving independence from Sudan in 2011, the young nation has been in the throes of a chronic economic and political crisis and is struggling to recover from the aftermath of a five-year civil war that left nearly 400 000 people dead.
Although a 2018 ceasefire and the power-sharing deal between President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar still largely holds, it is being sorely tested, with little progress made in fulfilling the terms of the peace process.