Sudan floods: Appeal more than doubled as waters rise above record levels

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9 August 2007

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has more than doubled its Sudan floods appeal to $4.8 million as flood waters in Sudan rise above the levels set in 1988, when tens of thousands of homes were destroyed and a million people were displaced.

The early arrival of heavy rains has caused rivers in the country’s north and east to burst their banks, inundating villages, towns and farm land. Downpours in neighboring Eritrea and Ethiopia have further increased the water levels. Near Khartoum, the Blue Nile has swollen to between one and two meters above the 1988 high water mark.

According to the Sudanese Red Crescent, nearly 100 people have been killed by the floods and more than 300,000 people in 16 of the country’s 26 states have been affected. Almost 60,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed.

John English, the head of the International Federation’s field assessment and coordination team in Sudan, says that the combination of the unexpected timing and the severity of the rain have caught many communities unprepared.

“Floods are common in Sudan, but officially this year’s rainy season hadn’t even started when these floods hit. Flooding on this scale hasn’t been seen for twenty years. Whole communities have been devastated…farms, livestock, roads, bridges, latrines, hospitals and schools have been damaged or swept away.”

Of particular concern, explains Niels Scott, the International Federation’s operations coordinator for Africa, is the impact that the floods are having on already fragile water and sanitation systems.

“In some areas, wells, reservoirs and water treatment plants have been submerged, leaving people without access to clean water. Latrines have also been flooded, and many communities are without basic sanitation facilities. This is increasing the incidence of water-borne diseases such as acute watery diarrhea.”

The International Federation’s revised appeal aims to assist 140,000 people for the next six months through the provision of water and sanitation assistance, basic health care as well as shelter and relief items. The preliminary emergency appeal, launched on 18 July, called for $1.8 million, to assist 40,000 people.

The Sudanese Red Crescent has been at the forefront of the humanitarian response to the floods. Mobile Red Crescent health clinics have been distributing chlorine tablets, mosquito nets and soap, and have disseminated information about hygiene and health promotion to more than 49,000 people. Hundreds of Red Crescent volunteers have also distributed thousands of tents, plastic sheets and blankets.

Heavy rains, swelling rivers and soaring temperatures are expected to continue until the end of the rainy season in October. According to local meteorological organizations, the coming weeks might see continued flash floods in a number of states.

Canadians wishing to make a financial donation may donate online, call 1-800-418-1111 or contact their local Canadian Red Cross office. The 24-hour toll free line accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Cheques should be made payable to the Canadian Red Cross, earmarked Floods in Sudan and mailed to Canadian Red Cross National Office, 170 Metcalfe Street, Suite 300, Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 2P2.