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Health volunteers at the centre of flood response in South Sudan: James’ Story

 

March 24, 2022 • 2 min read

As the impact of climate change increases globally, extreme weather conditions continue to threaten the lives of millions of people in the world’s most vulnerable communities. South Sudan, often suffering from the consequences of severe drought, is now recovering from heavy flooding.

One of the areas most impacted was Gogrial West County in Warrap State, in the country’s northwest. When the river Lol flooded in July 2021, more than 900 families in the area were forced out of their homes. People moving to higher ground were in dire need of shelter, healthcare, clean water, and sanitation facilities. With support from Irish Aid, GOAL provided essential relief to flood affected families, to meet these most basic needs.

James Majok, a GOAL supported Community Health Worker who was displaced by the flooding, witnessed the impact on people’s health and livelihoods.

“The rain fell for weeks, leaving the whole area flooded. Our crops and livestock were destroyed, our shelters fell to the ground, and our livelihoods were uprooted. This exposed the entire population to water borne, air borne, and insect borne diseases like diarrhoea, pneumonia, and malaria.”

Flooding destroyed homes and crops in Gogrial West County.

“Access to remote health facilities became extremely difficult, especially for vulnerable people like children, mothers who were expecting another child, and the elderly. All of these diseases increased in the area.”

Destruction of homes and farmland

Heavy rain continued into September and flooding increased, resulting in the further destruction of homes and farmland. Over 2,400 more families were forced from their homes and sought refuge in neighbouring towns and villages. GOAL teams stepped-up their response, engaging with local leaders and chiefs to distribute lifesaving aid and support.

Working in the most challenging environments, James put the needs of the community first, “As a GOAL trained Community Health Worker, I have continued treating children who were ill and continued coordinating immunisation of children against life-threatening diseases. I have also been referring children with serious illnesses or malnutrition that I could not treat to the regional health centre.”

While he has been busy responding to increases in disease, James remains determined to proactively protect the health of local communities.

“Beyond treatment, my primary focus is on disease prevention. I organise two health education sessions a week with displaced and host communities on how to protect themselves from these diseases,” James says.

Families displaced by the flooding faced increased risks from disease and malnutrition.

An Emergency within an Emergency

Covid-19 posed a further health risk to flood affected communities. Informal living situations have created conditions for the virus to thrive, putting additional pressure on an already stretched health-system. In response, GOAL teams worked to administer Covid-19 vaccines as part of the global WHO COVAX scheme while distributing essential items to families.

James takes pride in GOAL’s response to multiple threats. Despite the growing challenges faced by the community, James remains hopeful for the future, “I am sad that we went through this catastrophe but am proud to have served my community when they need my services the most.”