Child malnutrition rates skyrocket in South Sudan’s Ayod as floods continue, MSF warns

By Deng Machol

Thousands of people, such as this mother and her children, have been forced to seek higher ground. Photo credit Jesuit Refugee Service

Hundreds of children at Ayod western county of Jonglei State in South Sudan are suffering from shocking rates of malnutrition due to flooding, the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said.

Severe flooding has affected an estimated 600,000 people across a wide swathe of South Sudan, inundating homes and leaving people without adequate food, water, and shelter, according to OCHA.

Many areas have been flooded since the rainfall started and rising river levels, are worsening the crisis in the world’s youngest nation.

Many of the hardest-hit communities are in Jonglei State, where wetlands and tributaries of the White Nile overflowed as seasonal rains arrived earlier than usual.

However, MSF staff warn that the health of the displaced locals is likely to deteriorate further without adequate assistance, as the flooding continues in the country.

MSF, Head of Mission of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in South Sudan, Mr. Bernard Wiseman described the situation as a “worsen crisis” in Ayod western county, country’s north.

In the villages of Haat and Pakur, in western Ayod County in Jonglei State, home to over 10,000 populations, MSF said floods forced approximately 6,000 people to flee their homes from May onward. The displaced reported sheltered at the small crowded – island.

“We did an initial assessment for health and the big concerns, we have found 20% of children under five [years] had acute malnutrition,” Wiseman told Pan African Visions in an exclusive interview on Wednesday in Juba. There is a tremendous need for the population – there is poor nutrition, limited food potential and there is no sanitation and clean water.”

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is providing medical care in flood-affected areas. MSF is also distributing blankets, insecticide-treated mosquito nets, plastic sheeting, cooking utensils, and other essential supplies.

He said medical needs are increasing as the number of people with water-borne disease rises amid fears of other disease outbreaks.

“In the region around Pakur and Haat, we saw disastrous flooding,” says Wiseman, adding that everything was destroyed as there are no latrines and no clean drinking water.

According to him, the locals are using water mix with human and animal trashes.

Food scarcity is also a widespread concern.

Most local people are subsistence farmers, but the recurring flooding has destroyed crops and their cattle either drowned or are dying of hunger because the grass they feed on is covered by water.

The population is mainly using the World Food Programme (WFP) food distribution as the primary means for surviving. But there is a shortage of food in the areas after the UN food cut ratio distribution.

“The population depended on water lilies and fish to supplement their diet,” says Wiseman.

The MSF head mission call on the humanitarian agencies to intervene before the situation gets out of hand.

“The focus is not good unless the population receives needed assistance,” says Wiseman.

The country’s five-year conflict has interrupted planting and has prevented crop harvesting as exacerbating food crisis.  Existing violence and floods have displaced locals, now entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive.

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