Prolonged flooding increases challenges children face in Panyagor

A higher number of children are exposed for longer periods of time to the impacts of flooding

Lisa Hill
A young girl looks out over submerged houses in Panyagor village of Jonglei State.
15 February 2022

Jonglei State has been the hardest hit with floodwaters that are slow to recede, even now in the dry season, affecting over 305,000 people. Children are the most vulnerable to risks associated with the impacts of flooding, especially malnutrition. UNICEF continues to respond to growing humanitarian needs amidst access challenges, particularly in flood devastated Twic East.

8-year-old Bol sits on a manmade dyke overlooking the flooded fields near his village.

8-year-old Bol sits on a manmade dyke overlooking the flooded fields near his village. Many people have fled their destroyed homes and are unable to find food and clean water as crops and boreholes have also been washed out. In South Sudan, 390,000 children are now without access to basic services like sanitation facilities, proper healthcare and schools.

"I often miss lunch because there's so little food now. There wasn't much before but at least there was something," says Bol.

13-year-old Achior Chol Deng looks at submerged houses in the village of Panyagor.

Achior looks over the water and says, "We fled my village, Aliet, because of the water. The last two years of my life have been a complete waste. I often feel sick because of the flood water - there's been so much disease around here. I often get diarrhoea and a really bad cough, but I can't get proper treatment because either the health clinics are flooded, or medical supplies cannot get through."

There is a need to access clean food and water to prevent diarrhoea, a leading cause of malnutrition. This year, it's estimated that 60,000 children below five years of age will need nutritional services in Jonglei and Upper Nile State. Preventative services include counselling of pregnant and lactating mothers, cooking demonstrations, kitchen gardening and early child developments for the first 1000 days.

13-year-old Athieng Akoi Duot washes pots outside the flooded village of Panyagor.

"The flood water is disgusting and really contaminated.  I know so many people who've been sick because they've come into contact with it. My elderly grandma is still recovering. Me and my friends have all been sick too and we often get skin rashes whenever we get into the flood water," Athieng, 13-years-old, says as she washes pots and pans. 

Athieng is able to receive services thanks to a partnership between the World Bank, the Ministry of Health and UNICEF who are providing access to basic health services in the most remote areas of Jonglei and Upper Nile States.

Panyagor wades through the floods in his village.

Many dangers come with floods including snakes, crocodiles and the possibility of drowning.

"Each time I see friends, I have to cross this channel of water. It's horrible. My uncle drowned in 2020 because of the floods and I can't stop thinking about it. I hate being near the water," says 13-year-old Panyagor.

Boys walk along the manmade dyke separating flood water from relatively dry land.

Local authorities estimate that as much as 85% of Twic East is affected by flooding with as many as 80,000 people having fled the area for safer, drier ground. Communities find shelter in churches, schools, and outdoor spaces. For the 28 flooded schools in Twic East, UNICEF supports education in emergencies activities. Classes might be held in the school during the day while families sleep in them by night.

Boys dive into flooded fields in Panyagor, Twic East.

Young boys use a field as a swimming pool. Children still have the right to childhood by finding ways to enjoy their friendships and making time to play. 

As the sun sets, a young boy walks along the manmade dyke holding back flood water in Twic East.

Climate change has alternated the weather patterns in South Sudan and new measures need to be taken to live with the new reality. A way forward is through UNICEF supported preventive measures that include the construction and maintenance of dykes with drainage systems, canoes, mobile health clinics and flood-prone water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

UNICEF thanks the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and our generous donors who have contributed against the 2021 Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) appeal, such as the governments of Canada, Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, the United States through CDC and USAID; and The European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).