Wildfire kills one and leaves hundreds homeless in Nzara County, Western Equatoria

unmiss south sudan western equatoria nzara county wildfire assessment humanitarian assistance displaced people destruction

People affected by a wildfire in Nzara County seeking shelter under a mango tree that escaped unscathed.

26 Feb 2020

Wildfire kills one and leaves hundreds homeless in Nzara County, Western Equatoria

Felix Francis Katie

A wildfire has ravaged Nzara County in Western Equatoria, killing one person and leaving hundreds homeless. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan has visited the area and can confirm that much humanitarian assistance is urgently needed.

“I rushed to my father’s house when I saw the fire. I found him burning in a flame, and next to him were his belongings, also on fire. He had taken them outside of the house,” Esterina Kanido told the visiting assessment team, explaining how her father Dinizio Kanido was consumed by the wildfire sweeping her village on Saturday 22 February.

The uncontrollable flames ruined houses and farms in the villages of Naziragbe, Nambazia and Nugodi, covering an area of approximately five square miles.

Eliviria Fatina Thomas, a young mother, was left with almost nothing to survive on.

“We had six houses, but all of them have burnt down. My sisters, my mother and I, we are just staying outside and have only groundnuts to eat as our cassava flour was destroyed. We have no drinking water, we don’t have anything,” Fatina said, appealing for help from the government.

Catechist Luka Vero found himself standing in his compound, now without a roof, once the fire had gone away.

“We think UNMISS is doing their best. When something happens, they will hurry to come and find out what is going on,” said Mr. Vero, adding that shelter, food and clothes are much needed by those affected.

“We can tell that the effect of this wildfire is devastating to the communities. Many people don’t have homes, many have reported the loss of belongings and of course their livelihoods, because the people around here are farmers,” confirms Stella Abayomi, a civil affairs officer serving with the peacekeeping mission, noticing how land used for cultivating has also been ruined.

Ms. Abayomi notes that much assistance will be needed to rebuild the infrastructure and lives of the villagers in the area.

“There is an urgent need for a humanitarian intervention to support the people by providing temporary shelter, food and non-food items alike.”

The material damage caused is estimated to approximately 500 houses, subject to pending registration to confirm the final number.