The world's newest nation is both drying up and drowning
Bentiu, South Sudan (CNN)Many of the main roads running through Unity State are now completely submerged, yet the traffic remains. There are no cars, just people, some of whom swim, others wade, pushing their way through the heavy silt-laden water. The more fortunate glide by on canoes with their livestock and whatever possessions they could salvage from the floods.
In this traffic, between the cities of Bentiu and Ding Ding, is a group of women, pushing to dislodge their makeshift raft that has become stuck in mud, weighed down by six children. The men in the family went back north to keep their cattle safe, and the women were left to push for four days in the hope of reaching higher ground. Along the way, their food ran out, said one of the women, named Nereka. Her 5-month-old baby wails as she talks.
"Of course, I'm worried about my children," she said. "That's why we keep moving."
Ravaged by years of conflict, there has barely been enough peacetime in the world's newest nation to begin building. Only 200 kilometers of its roads are paved. Now, South Sudan is dealing with biblical floods that began as early as June and were made worse by the climate crisis, which it had little hand in creating.
This deluge, which is the worst in 60 years according to the UN, has swallowed not only the very roads that people here need to escape, but also their farms, homes and markets.
For years, South Sudan has been experiencing wetter-than-normal wet seasons, while its dry seasons are becoming even drier. The rainy season has ended, yet the water that has accumulated over months has yet to recede.
South Sudan is one of many places in the world struggling with this twin problem of drought followed by extreme rainfall, which together create prime conditions for devastating floods.
The worst floods in six decades have swallowed not only the very roads that people need to escape, but also their farms, homes and markets.
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