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JUBA - 27 Oct 2021

Interview: Humanitarian minister admits floods situation bad, promises government action

South Sudan minister for humanitarian affairs and disaster management Peter Mayen Majongdit.
South Sudan minister for humanitarian affairs and disaster management Peter Mayen Majongdit.

South Sudan minister for humanitarian affairs and disaster management Peter Mayen Majongdit says the humanitarian situation in flood-affected areas of the country is dire but the government is working to support flood-affected populations.

Early this month, Minister Majongdit and his water resources and irrigation counterpart Peter Gatkuoth visited Unity State to assess the impact of floods on the local communities. 

Radio Tamazuj caught up with him, and here are edited excerpts from the interview.

Q: How do you evaluate the humanitarian situation in the country at the moment?

A: The humanitarian situation is deteriorating so much especially in the flooded areas. We have 1.2 million people who have been affected by floods at the moment. Many people have been displaced in many parts of states across the country, and the majority of them don’t have access to education, health, and other facilities. We have a huge population currently living underwater and this situation has created severe humanitarian challenges.

Q: Are you saying the total number of the population who are affected by floods is 1.2 million?

A: Yes. This is the total number of people who are affected by floods. The number keeps on increasing because assessment is still going on in some parts.

Q: How did you manage to get this number?

A: These are figures we collected from the local South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SRRC) offices within the areas we visited.

Q: What are the most affected states or locations in South Sudan?

A: The figures differ from one state to another and the most affected state is Unity followed by Jonglei, Warrap, Upper Nile, Northern Behr el Ghazal, and Lakes state. Some of them are distributed among populations who are living alongside River Nile and River Dam such as the case of Central Equatoria state. Other affected populations were also recorded in Ibba County in Western Equatoria. So practically all the lowlands in South Sudan have been affected.

Q: There is property damage due to the flooding, do you have any estimation of such damage?

A: I can’t estimate anything now. But what I can tell you is that people have been displaced and they relocated to highlands. And as usual, when people are displaced they go and start a new life. During my visit to the affected areas, I haven’t seen anything new. You can find a family of 5, 8, or 10, they only depend on one saucepan, one chair, or only a few belongings. I didn’t see a family with many belongings in their new place. They don’t have many clothes and even some don’t have blankets. Some have managed to get only one tent and it doesn’t even take the whole family.

So they are homeless at the moment and they don’t have anything and their situation is deteriorating every day. Those who go and move around to find fish come and eat. Even they don’t have flour, oil, and no health services. Those who went to the town don’t have money to get services. Those who are displaced to highlands are also facing the same problem of finding basic services.

So frankly speaking, the situation is unfortunate and you can imagine if you lose everything and move to a new place where there are no necessities of life.

Q: Have you recorded any death toll during your assessment?

A: The numbers are big but we only managed to identify exceptional cases of snake bites. As you know the flooding brought a lot of cases of snakes in different states. We have recorded a high number of 21 people who died due to snake bites, 11 cases in Unity State, and other affected states recorded one case each. But in total, we have identified more than 100 people who died due to snake bites and other diseases. There are still chances that this number might increase because flooding is continuing and many people are being affected by different forms of diseases.

Our priority now as the government is to save the lives of the affected people by evacuating them to the highlands and to try to provide them with tents, plastic sheets, and other non-food items in addition to some food items as basic services for a living.

Q: Do we know the period in which the 100 people died?

A: This is data for three months data and this is what we can get. But as I said, there is a possibility of this number increasing in the coming period.

Q: Two weeks ago, the government allocated a sum of 10 million SSP to assist the flood-affected people. Has your ministry received the cash yet? And if so, how are you planning to utilize this money?

A: It is in the process and the ministry is setting up a plan. This fund is meant for the whole country. The ministry will open up chances for companies to bid in the coming days to implement the services needed. The government has not stopped at allocating 10 million only but formed a committee from other ministries tasked with revising the affected locations, because the government is aware that this money is not enough to fulfill all the needs of the affected population. So another assessment is going on and within one month or three weeks, people will be receiving the assistance. We shall begin with the most affected areas.

Q: So has the ministry has received the 10 million SSP?

A: It is guaranteed even if we didn’t get it in cash yet. 

Q: What will the money be used for?

A: The 10 million will be used to provide food items, plastic sheets, evacuation, and other services needed by the affected populations. 

Q: You said the government has formed an assessment committee. when will they begin their mandate? 

A: The committee is already being formed and probably within the next week, they will depart to the affected states and counties. Some counties were also added to the list of the affected areas after getting confirmation. So the 10 million is meant for an emergency action plan. After that, this committee is expected to present its findings to the Council of Ministers and the Council will now decide on how much money can be allocated for this purpose.

Q: Flooding is a recurrent problem as it comes every rainy season. Does the government have a sustainable solution to this problem? 

A: Yes. This is true. The government has a plan to find a permanent solution for this situation. The plan is with the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation. They have a master plan to find a permanent solution to water management across the country.