Sudan floods: ‘We have to start from scratch’

Popular initiatives aim to help Sudanese affected by the floods to rebuild their lives.

Sudan flash floods
Few Sudanese can afford to rebuild their destroyed homes or move to new ones [Courtesy of Nafeer campaign/Al Jazeera]

Khartoum – For Sumaiya Haroun, 43, it was business as usual on Saturday. Her two sons were at school, her older daughter and ailing husband at home, while Haroun embarked on her daily trip to Bahri’s central market where she sells food. 

When she returned home that day, her house, located in the middle of farms by the riverbank and made mostly with mud and bricks, had been reduced to a pile of crumbled walls. The scene was devastating.

“I cried when I saw the cupboard I bought  with my savings broken into pieces and our clothes strewn out of it,” said Haroun, her tearful eyes fixed on the ruins. “Our belongings, all of them, are now just a pile of garbage. We have to start from scratch,” she told Al Jazeera as she sat in a makeshift tent.

Thousands of Sudanese families, like Haroun, were left homeless. According to government figures, there are more than 80.000 people affected by the flooding so far.

Two months of torrential rain have killed more than 110 people in Sudan – and more rain is forecast. More than 160,000 people have been affected and 14,000 houses destroyed. Many, like Haroun, have hardly the means to rebuild their lives.

WATCH: Death as villages wash away in Sudan floods

Ali Hamdoun, a father of two girls, aged three and five, says his house, located in southern Khartoum district by the White Nile river, had been flooded but was still standing.

Our belongings, all of them, are now just a pile of garbage. We have to start from scratch.

by Sumaiya Haroun, food seller

“There was no thing I feared more than losing my daughters if the house collapsed during their sleep or while I was at work,” he said, adding that he sent his family to his parents’ house two weeks ago.

“A few days back, I toured the house with water up to my knees. I could repair some of the damage, I told myself, because we simply cannot afford to move to a new house.” 

Residents in Kassala, Sennar, South Kordofan, West Kordofan and North Darfur were most affected by the floods.

A report, recently issued by Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission, an agency under the Ministry of Social Welfare, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, describes floods as being “common” in Sudan’s rainy seasons. 

The predominant types of floods are localised floods caused by exceptionally heavy rains, run-off (flash floods), widespread floods caused by overflow of the Nile, its tributaries, Gash River and other rivers.

According to the Voluntary and Humanitarian Work Act issued in 2006, the government has the primary responsibility for assessment and response. It should lead efforts in providing the numbers of those affected by floods, coordinating response, and directing NGOs to where help is most needed. 

In June, the government reactivated the Flood Task Force at federal and state levels. The task force includes representatives from Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission, the Civil Defence Authority, the Sudanese Red Crescent Society and UN agencies.

“We conduct response and protection effort through building fortifications along the river Nile where there are residential areas,” said Hashim Hussein Abd Al Majid, director of the Civil Defence Authority, an agency under the Ministry of Interior. “We also coordinate the effort of local popular volunteers,” he added.

Several popular initiatives have mobilised volunteers to distribute aid to affected areas in a phenomenon known as Nafeer.

The group of several hundred volunteers that calls itself Nafeer joined the relief efforts shortly after the floods occurred.

“Nafeer is a congregation of volunteers that provides real-time solutions and responses to needs arising from urgent crises,” said Ahmed Ghandour, of Nafeer’s media committee. “It is an initiative from the people to the people, a grassroots tool to provide help during times of great need,” Ghandour told Al Jazeera.

Nafeer acts as an intermediary between those who can provide support and those in need, added Ghandour.

More than 160,000 people have been affected with some 14,000 houses destroyed [Courtesy of Nafeer campaign/Al Jazeera]
More than 160,000 people have been affected with some 14,000 houses destroyed [Courtesy of Nafeer campaign/Al Jazeera]

According to organisers, the idea behind this initiative comes from the commonly held concept of social solidarity where people mobilise themselves – without a central command –  to secure help for those who need it most. The group’s Facebook page has more than 65.000 followers and its Twitter account, @NafeerCampaign, includes updated information on the numbers of  affected persons and their needs.

Sudan floods kill scores, destroy homes

“We have teams that conduct field surveys, fact-check data, and then send an estimate of needs to Nafeer’s storage committee. Shortages are reported to the campaign’s financial committee,” Ghandour added.

Another campaign member explained that Nafeer has volunteers with quality experience from previous work at NGOs and organisations; those include doctors, engineers, etc.

Abdel Rahman Khurafiya, a leading member of the Nafeer campaign, explained that among the most-needed materials are tarpaulins, shelter items, food, medications for diseases related to rain and flooding, such as malaria and diarrhoea, as well as vaccines and serums against scorpion and snake bites, and, most importantly, clean drinking water.

Aid groups say they are remaining vigilant since more rain is forecast [Courtesy of Nafeer campaign/Al Jazeera]
Aid groups say they are remaining vigilant since more rain is forecast [Courtesy of Nafeer campaign/Al Jazeera]

Nafeer also coordinates with other bodies such as the Marine Scouts who dispatch search-and-rescue boats to affected areas. They also provide support for local organisations, particularly in Kasala state, reported to be in  most urgent need.

Currently, Nafeer has a caravan dispatched to the villages of Wad Alzaki and Ed Aldukhun, in White Nile State, carrying mosquito nets, tarpaulins and food for 253 families, or about 1,518 people. “We are prepared to go the whole nine yards, and this caravan is an all-out effort test run to gauge what we can do,” said Ghandour.

Meanwhile, the Sudanese Red Crescent Society, The National Federation of Sudanese Youth and local neighbourhood societies, such as Shambat Emergency. are in the field conducting similar efforts.

Aid groups say they remain vigilant since more rain is forecast

Meanwhile, as Haroun continues to pick the little that remains from her destroyed home, she confirms that her family were offered a tarpaulin, flour, cooking oil, lentils, rice and sugar by the Sudanese Red Crescent. “I still have to pay my husband’s medical bills, I have to make sure my children are fed and go to school. My head almost exploded as I was thinking of what to do and where to begin,” she said. 

“But we have to wait and see when the water will pull back to start thinking about what to do next.”

Source: Al Jazeera