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Floods affect thousands of locals, refugees in S. Sudan: UNHCR

October 20, 2019 (MABAN) - Heavy flooding in South Sudan’s Maban County has affected nearly 200,000 people, including refugees and host population, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said.

South Sudanese refugees carrying Core Relief Items walk down a road in Bidibidi refugee settlement, Yumbe District, Northern Region, Uganda. (UNHCR/David Azia)

Situated in the Upper Nile State, the affected area is home to more than 150,000 refugees from Sudan, according the UN body.

To tackle the catastrophe, UNHCR, its partners and the local authorities are reportedly rushing emergency support for the people.

“People are seeking safety from the flood waters wherever they find dry land, mostly on small islands as unprecedented water levels have submerged vast areas.

The area, near Maban’s capital town of Bunj, is reportedly prone to flooding during this time of year because of heavy seasonal rains.

Flooding rivers in South Sudan, UNHCR said, come from the highlands in Ethiopia, where rainfall is becoming more intense and irregular, is also carving its way through neighborhoods in broad, swift rivers.

The affected population is reportedly in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

"People have fled their homes, carrying their belongings and seen gathering together on little islands of dry ground," UNHCR said.

Flood waters have submerged major roads, making access to the refugee camps difficult for humanitarians. Schools in the region also remain closed.

The floods have also impacted access to public services, including hospitals and damaged sanitation facilities– increasing health risks.

“We remain concerned that the flooding may increase the risks and spread of diseases. South Sudan was recently declared cholera free last year with the fears that the deadly disease could make a comeback,” partly reads UNHCRs’ statement.

Meanwhile, emergency shelter, food, water and sanitation remain the main needs for refugees and locals. As an immediate response, UNHCR said it has pre-positioned emergency shelter kits and material assistance to help more than 5,000 affected families/some 25,000 people to rebuild and repair damaged shelter, but more support is needed.

Currently, South Sudan reportedly hosts almost 300,000 refugees mainly from Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan. An additional nearly 1.5 million are internally displaced inside the country.