Sudan: Flood Victims in Unity State Face Health Problems

Bentiu — The health situation among children and pregnant women in Unity State's Payinjiar County is deteriorating due to widespread flooding, say government officials.

Payinjiar County's Executive Director, Cornelio Waya Ruach, told Sudan Tribune on Thursday that the "situation is out of hand" and "there is need for quick help of people on ground as the death rate among pregnant women and children are on rise every day as there is no medicine".

He called on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to help humanitarian organizations to provide urgent assistance to flood victims.

Despite being oil rich, many people in Unity State blame the government for failing to bring in development in the almost eight years since a 2005 peace deal ended decades of conflict and awarded South Sudan 50% of the revenue from southern oil.

Since this January, however, South Sudan has lost 98% of its revenue as it could not agree on the transit fees it should pay Khartoum. Despite a Cooperation Agreement in September that included oil, production has not resumed as Khartoum insists that resumption of southern crude passing through its territory for export is contingent on security elements of the deal being implemented.

This year Payinjiar has been one of the hardest hit by flooding. Over 4,000 have people fled their homes and residential areas in Nyal, Pathiel, Tayar and Gakal in search of higher ground. A joint assessment by humanitarian agencies in July called for assistance for flood victims.

Humanitarian interventions in South Sudan, however, are severely hampered by poor roads that are often impassable during the rainy season.

The higher than normal flooding in June, July and September has increased the risk of people contracting malaria and waterborne diseases, as well as creating food shortages with crops that have been destroyed.

Payinjiar County has only one health facility, which took the state government three years to complete. Ganyliel payam [district] health center is run by the non-governmental organization, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which supplies medicine to the local population.

Nyal Payam experienced the heaviest flooding but officials say it has received no supplies of medicine since the floods in June. The lack of drugs in Payinjiar has forced some women to walk the seven hours to Ganyliel in order to receive vital drugs.

Officials say the flooding is the worst that the county has experienced since South Sudan gained self-rule in 2005. Payinjiar County commissioner Peter Gai Joak says his county is effectively cut off from the rest of the country due to floods.

Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the county has not seen the peace dividends people were hoping for, such as roads, schools and hospitals.

"So this has become really terrible situation, people we are suffering here. Independence has achieved one year ago, but people from grass root are still suffering more than the war time, we need our government to listen our voices, at least to bring in development from villages to the towns according to Late Dr. John Garang," Peter Bouy a Payinjiar told Sudan Tribune on Thursday.

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