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Sudan: the night Khartoum turned into a lake

15-09-2009 Feature

In August, a heavy downpour in Khartoum caused flash floods that left 27 people dead and over 13,800 homeless. The Sudanese Red Crescent, the ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are providing emergency relief to flood victims.

  © Sudanese Red Crescent / Hytahm Ibrahim    
  Children guard relief goods supplied to their families by the ICRC.    
  © Sudanese Red Crescent / Hytahm Ibrahim    
  A woman wades through a flooded neighbourhood in Khartoum.    
  © Sudanese Red Crescent / Hytahm Ibrahim    
  Khartoum. Flood victims about to receive ICRC relief assistance provided with the support of the Sudanese Red Crescent.    

Six hours of unusually heavy rains on the night of 26 August 2009 turned parts of Sudan’s capital city into lakes. For some of Khartoum’s residents, the rains were a mere inconvenience. But, for people living in slums and shanty towns surrounding the city, everything was lost. Homes were swept away along with everything they contained.

Khartoum state is made up of three cities: Khartoum, Bahri and Omdurman. Administratively, the state of more than eight million residents is divided into seven districts; the floods affected all seven.

According to an assessment report released on 1 September by the Sudanese Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner, new roads and rain water drainage channels seem to have played a role in clogging natural waterways, thereby compounding the problem and increasing the flooding.

Many schools, government buildings and residential areas were so flooded that people were unable to get to school or work. Many schools turned into small islands. Their facilities were severely damaged. The government suspended classes, initially for two days, but this was extended to a whole week as the magnitude of the damage became clearer.

According to the Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner’s report, 27 people died and thousands were made homeless, while over 13, 800 houses were completely destroyed and nearly 8,500 partially damaged in various parts of Khartoum.


 The Sudanese Red Crescent and the ICRC provide relief goods  

Without warning, thousands of vulnerable families with very meagre resources and incomes were exposed to the elements, with nothing to stave off flood water and, perhaps, diseases. They also face a shortage of drinking water and food.

The Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS has been coordinating its efforts with the relevant government agencies, local and international non-governmental organizations and the local communities affected to assess the situation in flood-hit areas and organize the delivery of relief goods. It is also coordinating an adequate response to issues such as health care.

The SRCS distributed 3,000 packages containing urgently needed items, including tarpaulins, sleeping mats, clothes, kitchen sets, soap, blankets, and other basic necessities to families. Using five ICRC trucks, Red Crescent volunteers distributed the packages, supplied by the ICRC, in the most affected districts of Khartoum between 6 and 8 September.

“The ICRC is always prepared to respond to emergencies,” said Peter Schamberger, ICRC coordinator for economic security. “Our primary partner in Sudan, the SRCS, may contribute to the preparedness, as has been the case in this instance.”

According to Khalil Al-Sammani, Director of the SRCS, more than 450 volunteers took part in assessing the situation and distributing shelter and other materials to flood victims. “The distribution of relief goods was the first of two,” Al-Sammani explained. “The second distribution will involve similar goods provided to 6,000 additional households. In total, 45,000 people or 9,000 families will receive assistance.”


 The International Federation gives emergency funding  

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies allocated more than US$ 230,000 from its disaster relief emergency fund to cover the costs of the assessment, distribution and other expenses.

The SRCS is expected to launch an appeal as soon as a more detailed assessment of short- and long-term needs is completed.

Discussions are underway to determine the response to longer-term needs. Coordination meetings are continuing with other partners to find solutions to issues such as the supply of clean drinking water, chlorination for the water supply system, temporary health clinics, sterilization of collapsed latrines and the restoration of the waste disposal system which has broken down.