If you happened to have been driving down a road in south Sudan lately, you would have seen tens of thousands of recently homeless people camping out alongside the highway. Between 50- and 60,000 people have been forced to flee from massive flooding in the region. Besides being worried about malaria outbreaks, officials are especially concerned about the effect this natural disaster will have on voter registration for a historical upcoming referendum that could split the country in two .
Almost constantly since independence in 1956, the Christians and animists in southern Sudan and the Muslims in the north have been engaged in bloody warfare because of tribal, ideological, religious and ethnic differences. However, a peace treaty signed in 2005 marked a turning point in the conflict as it ended the civil war and proposed a referendum for the south’s independence. In January, citizens will vote on whether the south shall secede from the north – a decision that could mean the beginning of sustained peace, but certainly not the end of hardship. But as 60,000 people are wading through flood waters with no food and no shelter right now, registering to vote will probably be low on their priority lists. Also, more heavy rains are expected in October so the situation could potentially go from bad to worse even with the UN aid that has arrived.