What does flooding mean for displacement camps?

South Sudan, August 8, 2014

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  • Heavy rainfall and flooding has worsened already-difficult conditions at the U.N. displacement camp in Bentiu. Photos: Osee Mbailwako/Mercy Corps

When I was in South Sudan last week, our team in Bentiu sent these photos of the floodwaters that have inundated the U.N. compound where 40,000 people are taking refuge from the conflict. They reported that tents have been swept away and that the displaced families are facing terrible conditions.

Just to collect clean water for drinking, people must wade through water and mud that is knee deep.

The situation is become worse and worse by the day, and the continuing rain and flooding is making a challenging situation nearly impossible.

The heavy rainfall is also flooding the few roads and airstrips, slowing deliveries of water and supplies.

Mercy Corps' team is actively working to improve camp drainage systems and evacuate excess water to decrease the amount of standing water in the camp. We are also working with the U.N. and partners to improve the roads leading to the camp to ensure that water trucks can safely access families in need.

Our team is very concerned that this flooding may increase the spread of waterborne diseases, which can cause severe dehydration and death.

In addition to the nation's severe food crisis, cholera is quickly becoming another killer.

As of July 23, a total of 5,141 cholera cases, including 141 deaths, have been confirmed in South Sudan. The real number of cholera cases is estimated to be much higher due to underreporting in remote areas and regions without medical facilities to perform the required tests.

The displacement camps are facing a real threat of outbreak due to the extremely crowded and dense environment, where cholera and other contagious diseases can spread out of control quickly.

We are building emergency latrines and hand washing stations as quickly as we can, but more needs to be done.

Our team is also working to ensure an uninterrupted supply of hand washing soap and basic hygiene supplies are available, and we'll lead camp-wide hygiene and cholera prevention education throughout the camp to combat the spread of the disease.