People in Bentiu, South Sudan, have had to learn new skills -- such as building canoes and rafts -- to navigate through sometimes treacherous waterways. Some canoes are built out of plastic oil drums cut in half and stuck together with whatever people can find.
Sebastian Rich/UNICEF

In pictures: South Sudan's worst flooding in decades

Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT) December 17, 2021

People in Bentiu, South Sudan, have had to learn new skills -- such as building canoes and rafts -- to navigate through sometimes treacherous waterways. Some canoes are built out of plastic oil drums cut in half and stuck together with whatever people can find.
Sebastian Rich/UNICEF

South Sudan is experiencing its worst floods in 60 years.

The deluge began as early as June, swallowing up homes, farms and markets across swaths of the African nation.

For years, South Sudan has seen wetter-than-usual wet seasons, and its dry seasons have become even drier. This twin problem of drought and extreme rainfall, a consequence of climate change, has created prime conditions for devastating floods.

More than 850,000 people have been impacted by the floods, the UN agency coordinating the relief effort there told CNN, and some 35,000 people have been displaced.

Sebastian Rich photographed the situation for UNICEF last month. He witnessed how people in the city of Bentiu are desperately trying to move to higher ground, wading through floodwaters with what's left of their homes and belongings and livestock.

He said residents have been helping one another, whether it's to move or build mud dikes for protection from the floods. "It wasn't a 'me, me, me' society," the photographer said. "It was a 'we, we, we,' society. 'We're going to help each other get through this.'"

There are other challenges in South Sudan, many of which have worsened because of the floods. The world's newest nation, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, faces political instability, conflict, underdevelopment and outbreaks of disease.