Shifting weather patterns catch villagers off guard in northern Sudan

Publicado: 26 febrero 2014 6:55 CET

Nelly Muluka, IFRC, and Sammy Mahdi, Sudanese Red Crescent Society

“We have lived in this area for many years with farmers practicing irrigation using water from the Nile river,” says Mustarifa Mohammed, a resident of Al Burgeg Locality in Northern State, Sudan. “To us, rain is alien and we can go on for years before receiving any.”

So when heavy rains and flash floods started inundating their villages last August, it was totally unexpected.

“First, underground water started seeping into our houses through the floors. This was long before the flash floods. We got worried as we watched the walls of our houses weaken, indicating that it was only a matter of time before the houses would most likely collapse,” says Mohammed.

“Since we had not experienced rain for years, we were caught unaware. The water flow was very strong and with our house having been affected by the underground water, it collapsed in a matter of minutes,” she adds.

Ismail Ata, another resident of Al Burgeg, has been living on a farm, which his family has owned for over 40 years. But when the rushing waters came, it was all destroyed. He cannot even begin to comprehend how both the underground water and the flash floods happened.

“I have lived here for seven years and it has hardly rained. We were all shocked when underground water suddenly started seeping through the floors of our houses,” says Ata.  

His biggest fear is that the water might affect farming, especially the date trees. He says these trees do not need a large amount of water and the flash floods, combined with the underground water, have water logged the farms. He attributes this new phenomenon to climate change, adding that families have been living here since the 1940s and the twist in the climatic pattern is new and worrying.

It is also concerning to the Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS), which is now ensuring that families in Al Burgeg learn how to better prepare themselves for future shifts in weather patterns. 

“The Disaster Risk Reduction programmes will assist these communities since they have no experience with handling flash floods or heavy rains,” says Sammy Mahdi, regional director, Sudanese Red Crescent Society. “Since most of these families are farmers, the programmes will teach them how to adopt other coping mechanisms to build more resilient communities.”

According to joint Red Cross Red Crescent assessments in the Northern State, at least 816 houses and latrines in Al Burgeg Locality remain totally collapsed from last year’s flash floods, and 672 others partially damaged. From the onset of the disaster, the SRCS team from Dongola branch has been assisting affected families with evacuations, first aid and psychosocial support.

The National Society is also working with other stakeholders to support the most vulnerable families in the worst affected states through the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase.

Based on the findings from the joint assessment, SRCS, in collaboration with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, have revised their emergency appeal, now seeking 7,384,813 Swiss francs to support at least 75,000 people in the worst hit states with services including health, water and sanitation, rehabilitation, emergency shelter, non-food items and psychosocial support (Sudan Floods Revised Emergency Appeal).