Rains come after 19 years, causing havoc for unprepared families

Published: 1 October 2013 17:16 CET

By Nelly Muluka, IFRC

Ibrahim Mohamed Ali and his wife Hurja Yassin Osman are a couple in their 70s, living in Halifa Locality, Northern State of Sudan. It is a region which has not seen rain in 19 years, so when heavy rains and flash flooding came in August, destroying homes, livelihoods and prized possessions, Ibrahim and Hurja were in shock.

"Initially, we did not live on this piece of land. We lived elsewhere for 15 years, but we had to move in 1994 because of flooding,” says Ibrahim Mohammed. “That was when we moved here. Since then, we have not had any rains in this area.”

“It happened in the evening, without any warning,” says Hurja. “The water came and, in a split second, the house was full. We ran for our lives and only came back to check on the situation in the morning. The house was gone along with everything else, including the chickens and goats.”

It is a similar story for most of the affected families in this area, and in 14 other states where an estimated 92,000 households have been affected by floods..

According to Sami Mahdi, the Sudanese Red Crescent Society Regional Director, Northern State, this is a clear indication of climate change. “This area has not experienced any heavy rains for many years so communities do not have a culture of dealing with it. Most houses have very light roofs or no roofs at all because they are not expecting rains,” says Mahdi. With the effects of climate change becoming more intense and unpredictable, Mahdi believes it is time to raise awareness in communities about the realities of climate change, and help them to adapt.

In response to the recent flooding, Red Crescent staff and more than 2,800 volunteers have collaborated with the government and other stakeholders to help distribute emergency relief items to at least 42,153 households, using its own stocks and donated items.

The International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies launched an emergency appeal for 918,554 Swiss francs to assist National Society to support 35,000 people affected by the flooding over the next six months. The International Committee of the Red Cross is also providing support in terms of logistics, non-food items, and a water and sanitation emergency response unit.

A joint rapid assessment, led by Sudanese Red Crescent Society, in the six worst hit areas of Khartoum, Gezira, White Nile, Blue Nile, River Nile and Northern states, shows that rains are still being experienced in some spots, with several families still homeless and in dire need of shelter, health, water and sanitation. Education and transport sectors have also been affected, as have the livelihoods of many who rely on agriculture threatened.

“It is difficult to accept that what has been our home for many years, ceased to be in just a matter of minutes,” says Hurja Yassin.