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September 2013, Khartoum, Sudan: A boy stands in flood water in Khartoum's Soba Kangour neighbourhood. Tens of families were affected by the floods that struck in August and September. Credit: OCHA
Almost 70,000 families were affected by floods that washed across Sudan in August and September. Humanitarian agencies are working with communities to provide much-needed support.

Heavy rains and floods affected tens of thousands of families across Sudan in August and September. In response, humanitarian agencies are working with communities to provide emergency shelter, health care and education, and to contain public-health risks.

The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has allocated US$5.5 million to support these efforts. CERF is a global pooled fund that supports UN agencies and their humanitarian partners to deliver assistance to people affected by natural and man-made disasters.

Extensive floods, unprepared communities

Flooding occurs annually in many parts of Sudan. However, this year the flooding was so extensive that many areas that are normally immune were hit, including the capital, Khartoum.

The CERF funding will support operations in these areas where communities were unprepared and humanitarian agencies have limited capacity to respond. Almost three quarters of the people affected by the floods live in areas that are not normally supported by UN agencies.

In Khartoum, thousands of South Sudanese are among the worst affected. Khartoum is home to about 40,000 South Sudanese, most of them living in informal settlements that were ill-equipped for floods.

“We are tired, very tired. The floods have made a bad situation worse,” said one South Sudanese woman living in Khartoum’s Soba Kangour neighbourhood.
Her husband agreed: “We don’t have a health centre in our neighbourhood,” he said.

Most of the people in this community are waiting to be repatriated to South Sudan as part of a massive relocation project. However, this large-scale plan was suspended in January 2011 due to a lack of funding. Few South Sudanese have the legal documentation that would allow them to regularize their status, and the Government of Sudan has not established procedures that would allow them to apply for residency.

Health care now a priority

Access to health care is a major priority for people affected by the floods, says Dr. Imam Shakiti from the World Health Organization.

“Right now, the biggest risk is in the area of environmental health and how it links to population health,” she said. “Stagnant water, open defecation and garbage piling increase the risk of different water and vectorborne diseases such as cholera and haemorrhagic fevers – and people affected often have no access to care.”

Health organizations will receive about $1.4 million from CERF. This will be used to mitigate continued public-health risks by ensuring that temporary and mobile clinics are running and well stocked until flood-damaged primary health-care centres are reopened. Another $2.8 million will go to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to provide clean water and sanitation services.

The CERF funding will also support emergency education services. In the capital alone, over 14,000 children have lost access to education due to the floods. The funding will allow UNICEF to establish temporary learning spaces, helping to restore some much-needed normalcy and continuity.

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