Women lose husbands as floods push them to the walls

Women lose husbands as floods push them to the walls
Tereza Lou walking at her flooded compound in Pan-yei village in Turalei County. [Sheila Ponnie, The City Review]

Floods wreak havoc on more than just crops, livestock, and homesteads.  Tereza Lou and Acinrin Doung, are just two of the thousands of women in Twic Mayaridit who have witnessed the flooding and will tell you that there is another loss that’s just as painful: the loss of your marriage and family.

Tereza Lou, 35, a mother of four, was living happily with her husband, tilling the land, and educating her children until the floods struck and brought a new form of stress. Floods robbed her of not just a source of livelihood, but also education for her children and a marriage.

 “When the floods came, my husband went to look for shelter in Khartoum because he did not want to stay in a neighbour’s house. So, he left us here. It’s not been easy.”

The 37-year-old mother of four, migrated to a neighbour’s home with her children to find a safe shelter. But Tereza’s husband instead migrated to Khartoum leaving behind his family.

“It’s not easy for you to remain alone without the father of your children staying with you. You struggle with the children alone. Taking them to school, they come back and start looking for what to eat, but we can’t run away from our struggles.”

Floods in South Sudan, described as the worst in 60 years, began in June, destroying houses, farms, and markets throughout large parts of the Upper Nile, Unity, and Jonglei and Warrap states.

The floods have affected more than 850,000 people, according to the UN organisation in charge of the relief operation, and 35,000 people have been displaced.

Tereza’s story is similar to that of many other women who have found themselves in charge of their households after their husbands were displaced by floods. “As women, sometimes when the floods come, the husbands go away, either to Juba or Khartoum, so it becomes a challenge for us,” Tereza, who is struggling to feed her children, says.

Acinrin Duong, a mother of seven, is battling on her own. Her children left the home and have not returned.

“Some travelled to Juba, while others are studying, and yet others are staying with their uncle.” “Right now, I don’t have any income,” she explains.

Duong, 45, has been left to do all of the household chores, which typically involve planting and harvesting, animal care, and providing for her family.

Floods put women’s health at risk

“The women have been complaining of bone discomfort as a result of crossing the wetlands on a daily basis,” Tereza says.  “When you get to the hospital, they will draft a paper for you and then direct you to the drug store.” “But you won’t have the money to buy the medicine,” Tereza continues, “and that won’t be feasible since you won’t have the money.”

Flooding has caused extensive damage to women’s livelihoods. However, it is wreaking havoc on women’s health, as they bear the brunt of the damage because their regular tasks bring them into direct contact with contaminated floods.

Malaria, starvation, diarrhoea, water-borne diseases, and upper respiratory infections have afflicted thousands of women.

“One pregnant woman walked ten kilometres through the floods to deliver her baby.” She gave birth to her child in the water.” They left at 12 a.m., and she delivered her baby the next morning.

Tereza’s issues have been aggravated by her lack of income, as she is constantly concerned about how she will pay for her children’s school fees.

“Because the fees have been raised and the cost of the uniform is excessive, our children will be unable to attend school.” It is difficult for regular women like us to afford school tuition, and it is difficult for me to watch my children remain at home without an education. “

Women cope as best as they can

“I perform local Tukul plastering, then if I get any money, I buy necessities for my children,” Duong says, adding that she hopes her children would help her start a brick-making operation.

“I’m hoping that once the water recedes, my lads will be able to assist me in constructing some bricks.” “Hopefully, my sons in Juba will send me money so that we can repair our home as well.”

On the other side, Tereza has found solace in the woods. She and other ladies go to the woods to gather firewood to sell. The proceeds from the sale of the timber are utilised to feed her children.

“It’s not an easy job, but you have to do it for the sake of survival.” Some women see us and wonder why we are living this way; they suggest that we divorce and leave, but we refuse because we have been told since we were children, that one day we would face a difficult life, that one day we would marry a lazy man, so when you recall your childhood memories of being told to resist divorce, you choose to stay.”

The impact of the floods has been greatest among the poorest women, who lack incomes or a larger network of relatives and friends who could help buffer the impact.

“Sometimes we would sell our goats and cows, we no longer do that,” Tereza concludes.