Bentiu, South Sudan (CNN) -
Bentiu, South Sudan (CNN) -
Many of the main roads through Unity state are now completely submerged, but traffic remains.
There are no cars, just people, some of whom swim, others wade, making their way through the heavy, sediment-laden water.
The more fortunate glide in canoes with their livestock and possessions that they have been able to save from the floods.
In this transit, between the cities of Bentiu and Ding Ding, there is a group of women pushing to dislodge their makeshift raft that has gotten stuck in the mud, weighing six children.
The men of the family returned north to keep their livestock safe, and the women kept pushing for four days in the hope of reaching higher ground.
Along the way, they ran out of food, says one of the women, named Nereka.
Her 5-month-old baby cries as she talks.
"Of course, I am worried about my children," she said.
"That's why we keep moving."
Ravaged by years of conflict, there has hardly been a time for peace in the world's newest nation to begin building.
Barely 200 kilometers of its roads are paved.
Now, South Sudan is grappling with biblical floods that began as early as June and were exacerbated by the climate crisis, which it had little to do with creating.
Displaced youths return to a camp in Bentiu.
A thatched roof hut looms out of floodwaters in Ding Ding city.
This flood, which is the worst in 60 years according to the UN, has swallowed not only the very roads that people need to escape, but also their farms, houses and markets.
For years, South Sudan has experienced wetter than normal rainy seasons, while its dry seasons have become increasingly dry.
The rainy season is over, but the water accumulated for months has not yet been withdrawn.
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South Sudan is one of many places in the world struggling with this dual problem of drought followed by extreme rains, which together create the optimal conditions for devastating floods.
More than 850,000 people have been affected by the floods, according to CNN the UN agency that coordinates relief efforts in the country, and some 35,000 of them have been displaced.
Remote villages like Ding Ding are now largely abandoned.
The traditional thatched roofs of many houses in the area protrude above the water, but their walls remain submerged.
Some foraging here have resorted to eating the lilies that have begun to sprout on the surface of the flood water, as a whole new ecosystem begins to form in this radically changed landscape.
It's a bleak outlook for a country that is only 10 years old.
After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, just two and a half years later, South Sudan plunged into a brutal civil war that did not end until last year.
Deadly and intercommunal violence remains common as people fight over increasingly scarce grazing lands.
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South Sudan is no stranger to seasonal flooding, but Unity state officials say they haven't seen anything of this magnitude since the early 1960s. 90% of the state's land has been affected by flooding. , and there are only five months until the next rainy season.
Bentiu officials say they are concerned the situation is only getting worse.
"We have been told that the water behind is not going to go away now, it is not going to recede or dry out. It will take a while because it is deep water," said Minister Lam Tungwar Kueigwong, Minister of Lands, Housing and Services. State public.
Scientists are now able to calculate to what extent the climate crisis may have influenced most extreme weather events.
But in this part of the world, it is notoriously difficult to measure with certainty because it has huge variations in its natural climate to begin with.
It's especially difficult to make projections about drought, but what scientists know is that as the Earth warms, the Horn of Africa and its surrounding countries will experience more extreme rainfall, making it more susceptible to flooding.
This is largely because a warmer atmosphere can retain more moisture, leading to more rain.
The world is already 1.2 ° C warmer than before it began to industrialize, and Africa in general is experiencing a temperature rise above the world average.
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For those dealing with this problem in South Sudan, the climate crisis is clearly already here and offers the rest of the world a glimpse of the complications it could bring.
"We are feeling climate change. We are feeling it," said John Payai Manyok, the country's deputy director of Climate Change.
"We are feeling the droughts, we are feeling the floods. And this is turning into a crisis. It is leading to food insecurity, it is leading to more conflict within the area because people are competing for the few resources that are available."
Although droughts and floods may seem like polar opposites, they are more closely related than is apparent.
A woman carries her baby on her head as she walks through the floodwaters.
"After a long dry spell, the soil can be hard and very dry, so there will be more runoff, increasing the risk of flooding," explains Caroline Wainwright, a climate scientist at the University of Reading, who studies the region of Reading. East africa.
"And all of this potentially helps make the storms bigger and the rains more intense. That's something we could expect to see more of - dry spells and these really intense storms."
The question now is not just how to clean up the mess, but how to adapt to better withstand these extreme weather disasters.
Like many nations suffering the worst impacts of the climate crisis, South Sudan accounts for 0.004% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The United States, on the other hand, represents more than 15%.
But much of the suffering here is due to a lack of tools and systems to prevent extreme weather from turning into a humanitarian disaster.
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Yet the industrialized world, which has played the biggest role in the climate crisis, still fails to deliver on the $ 100 billion a year it pledged to the developing world to help it reduce emissions and adapt to huge changes.
A UN report released last month revealed that adaptation costs in the developing world are already five to ten times higher than current funding.
By mid-century, they are expected to reach $ 500 billion.
As its neighboring countries make progress on the construction of more permanent dams and levees, South Sudan has not adapted and remains at the mercy of its rivers, Manyok said.
Human activity is also worsening the health of rivers and their ability to retain water during heavy rains.
Manyok said the country desperately needs to adapt.
"We must introduce water-friendly and efficient technologies, and we must build dams along the Nile and remove sedimentation," Manyok said.
Sedimentation is often caused by sediment or soil erosion, and can accumulate in rivers and block the natural flow of water, aggravating flooding.
The city of Rubkona.
A UN mission repairs a damaged dam
A destroyed school
Several areas of Rubkona, a commercial city close to Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, have been abandoned.
The markets and houses of this town seem like ghosts, submerged under the water that continues to rise at a slow and tortuous pace.
Nearby, Pakistani engineers for the UN mission are using the few heavy machines available to repair and reinforce a hastily built mud dam that has kept the airport and a camp of nearly 120,000 displaced people on dry ground.
UN officials say a break here would be catastrophic.
The battle is constant, since every day the water continues to rise up the wall of the dike.
It filters down the red clay road towards the airstrip and the camp gates.
The vast majority of internally displaced people arrived years ago, fleeing South Sudan's brutal civil war.
They now share increasingly limited space and resources with newcomers.
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Doctors Without Borders hospital, located inside the camp, is overflowing with patients.
Staff are treating a massive increase in the number of malnourished babies since the floods began.
"We've had 130 cases in the last month. Before, we could have between 30 and 40 in a month," said CEO Kie John Kuol.
Back in Ding Ding, the village school, which was rebuilt in 2017 after it burned down during the civil war, is also partially submerged in water: progress is again suspended.
According to UNICEF, the floods have destroyed, closed or prevented access to more than 500 schools in South Sudan.
Kuol Gany, a school teacher, is worried that he will soon have to leave his hometown.
As Professor Kuol Gany walks through his classroom, the water is up to his knees.
Behind him is a scribbled blackboard with equations and definitions of English words.
"Relief is the help that is given to people during a catastrophe", reads one of the definitions.
Gany had only been teaching in this new building for a few years before the floods hit.
He worries that he will have to leave it, and even his city, forever.
"The water keeps rising," he says.
"There are diseases and there are snake bites. And we too are drinking this water."
Ding Ding resident James Ling said he returned briefly to see what he could salvage from his eight-year-old home.
He waded through the water to get home, but found nothing except the drawings of his children on the walls.
"Since the conflict broke out, we have never rested," he said.
"We have been constantly running, displaced. Our children have had no relief from the dangers."