Since its independence in 2011, South Sudan – the youngest sovereign country in Africa, has suffered both droughts (in 2011 and 2015) and floods (in 2014, 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021). Following decades of underdevelopment, armed conflicts and violence, communities were hit hard by three consecutive years of severe flooding (2019-2021) and COVID-19, which led to increased and combined disaster and conflict-induced displacement, which in many affected areas compounded the dire humanitarian situation and aggravated food insecurity.

As a result, stakeholders questioned how to best support communities in building disaster risk management (DRM) and preparedness capacities so that emergency responses are no longer the primary source of interventions provided. To improve the understanding of flood risk in South Sudan and enhance disaster preparedness following the devastating seasonal floods, GFDRR provided financial and technical support to the development of a Field Validation and Analysis of Community Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) to complement the remote and geodata-informed Flood Damage and Needs Assessment (FDNA) of the 2020 seasonal floods.

The analysis found that South Sudan has in place several policies and legal frameworks to facilitate CBDRM and promote a decentralized approach that empowers local governance institutions to better prepare for and respond to floods, including the country’s transitional constitution, the National Adaptations Programme of Actions (NAPA) to climate change (2016), the South Sudan National Environmental Act (2015), and the Local Government Act (2009). Building on this enabling framework, the bulk of the assessment centered on identifying challenges and opportunities for implementing CBDRM in South Sudan.

Results from the report showed that, while CBDRM approaches have been attempted in the past, primarily by creating Disaster Risk Management (DRM) committees and support for building community dykes and emergency shelters, these efforts have been implemented in an ad hoc manner. More concretely, the analysis highlighted that while women and youth often bear tremendous responsibility in flood-affected communities, including caring for vulnerable household members, as well as building and maintaining dykes, they continue to be marginalized in local decision-making. The same is true for ethnic groups, with their knowledge often used as one mechanism for communities to anticipate and prepare for floods. However, this knowledge has yet to be integrated into early warning systems and formal coordination mechanisms.

The findings and recommendations of the analysis have been used to inform the design and implementation of flood risk reduction infrastructure and capacity building for DRM under the Enhancing Community Resilience and Local Governance Project Phase II. Also, the project will benefit from CBDRM interventions, identified as best practices and documented for replication and scaling up, including: (i) use of local knowledge to for community based flood early warning; (ii) participatory risk mapping, analysis, and training for emergency preparedness and response; (ii) mobilization of community members to build and reconstruct dykes using locally available materials; (iii) establishment of DRM committees at different levels—state, county, and community levels; (iv) facilitation of constructive interaction between communities and the county government. The analysis has also been used to identify entry points to incorporate CBDRM into DRM policy and regulatory reforms.

Lesson Learned

The FCV context of South Sudan, has made it difficult to address all government and community needs and initiatives. As a result, taking a long-term disaster and climate risk-informed development approach, combined with emergency preparedness and response, will be critical in supporting community and national-level resilience in the face of hazards such as floods. Longterm sustainability of interventions, such as CBDRM leverages local knowledge and firsthand experience with disasters to identify responsive, effective, and relevant solutions to preparing for disasters and mitigating their impact.