Within reach

UNICEF is using outreach mechanisms to reach the flood affected population in Jonglei

Helene Sandbu Ryeng
A UNICEF worker carrying supplies
27 September 2020

Pibor 24 september 2020- Flickering gazes between the members of the outreach team standing where the water has reached. In just two days, the Pibor River has swallowed new land and you can't reach where the boats are tied up without having water up to your waist. The flickering gazes continue until it is decided who is tasked with bringing the boats closer to the new shore.


Boats being loaded with supplies

UNCIEF Emergency Specialist Joseph Adiomo is making sure the supplies are distributed evenly between the boats for everyone to reach Verteth safely. Verteth is one of many towns along the Pibor river affected by the floods. The only way the population of around 15,000 people can access basic services is by traveling by boat to Pibor. Instead, an outreach team consisting of UNICEF, WHO, Joint Aid Managament (JAM), Live Well and International Medical Corps are taking supplies and services to Verteth.

A man bening back to avoid a branch

The boats are maneuvering between sunken trees with branches that will whip your face unless you lean in or lean back like one of the team members in the picture above. The boat drives are trying to remember what the land looks like when it is dry in order not to hit anything hiding in the murky flood water. "I believe there is fence here," UNICEF boat driver William says. 

Then we enter the Pibor river and set full speed ahead.

Maze crops destroyed by flood

As we are approaching Verteth, we can see houses and crops submerged in water. This maze could have been valuable food for the population.

Children standing in flood water

The children in Verteth are flocking on the shore as the boats are approaching dry land. 

Two men carying supplies

The team starts carrying the supplies from the boats to the distribution sites and the makeshift examination areas.

People walking through flood water

The flood water has split Verteth in two. People living on the other side of town are wading through water and to access services.

A child being examined

Under a cluster of trees is where the health clinic is set up. The waiting line is long, but the doctor from WHO is making sure he examines the children properly. This girl has a fungus infection on the skin. 

A child is screened for malnutrition

Women and children are gathered for a mass screening for malnutrition. Those who come out with red and yellow are referred to the makeshift nutrition centre set up in an empty building. There, the children are screened properly for the medical record, tested for malaria and provided with necessary medication including ready-to use therapeutic food (RUTF) for the next two weeks and instructions on how to administer the RUTF and the medications given.

a man is handing a water kit to a woman

UNICEF Emergency Specialist Joseph Adiomo is handing a water kit to one of the residents in Verteth. The kit comprise of water purification powder, a busket for the purification process, a cloth for filtering the purified water and lastly a collapsible jerrycan for safe storage of the water. The water purification process is demonstrated for the population as it is important that it is done in a correct way to make the water safe for drinking.

A sign post in flood water

Before we head back to Pibor, we pass by the school in Verteth. It is submerged in water, and will not reopen when the candidate classes resume early October. 

A child dragging laundry out of the bucket

Some 600,000 people are affected by the flood in South Sudan. Upper Nile, Lakes and Jonglei States, the latter is where Pibor and Verteth are situated, are hardest hit. 

UNICEF has partnered with the World Bank to improve access to essential health services in Jonglei, including outreach activities. UNICEF South Sudan would like to thank the EU/ECHO, GAVI, UK Aid and USAID for their contributions to our nutrition, health and WASH programmes which becomes even more critical in times like these. We would also like to thank the Government of Canada, Sweden and Belgium for their generous donations, allowing us to respond to emergencies quickly and for contributions from the South Sudan Humanitarian Fund.