Catholic Relief Services is providing assistance to thousands of people affected by deadly flooding after heavy rains in Sudan that has impacted more than 300,000 people and killed nearly 50, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The area around Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, has been hit the hardest.
CRS helped with the distribution of essential items — including mosquito nets, sleeping mats, and plastic sheets — to 950 families in the affected areas. Working with a local partner, CRS is also helping to prevent the spread of disease by improving the sanitation and hygiene conditions of 7,500 people living amid the stagnant waters. That work includes creating ten refuse pits for solid waste disposal, waste cleaning campaigns, community hygiene promotion campaigns, and the rehabilitation of 200 family latrines.
Ismail Shaadin, a CRS employee living in one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in Khartoum, felt the impact of the flooding first-hand. With four feet of standing water around his house after a nearby levy broke, Shaadin had to swim to get help. His family of six was cut off from running water and electricity for days, and eventually moved with 10 other families to the second floor of a nearby vacant building.
“When the rains started, we were not able to sleep that night. The rain started at 8:30 pm and we were terrified watching the water grow and grow and grow,” Shaadin recalls. “By 4:30 am, we took our families to the second floor of the vacant building.”
With the outer walls of his house severely damaged, and a number of leaks in the roof, Shaadin and his family were forced to stay put in the vacant building. And with businesses closed, they had to ask neighbors for food and water.
“Some CRS colleagues brought some food to help me and my family,” Shaadin said. “It was an unbelievable moment when I dashed into the flat with those food items that day.”
Because of his experience with CRS, Shaadin was quickly nominated by his neighbors to lead an emergency committee for their community. Together, they organized donations of food, water, money and clothes to distribute to others in need. “I saw people coming together, sharing what they had on hand,” he said. Using the donated funds, the committee was eventually able to rent heavy equipment to dig channels in the severely flooded areas in order to drain the water.
The most pressing needs now, Shaadin says, are shelter and food, as well as the rehabilitation of primary schools and access to health and other services.
CRS has previously worked with communities in the affected areas to form savings groups – SILCs – which sprang into action to support neighbors affected by the heavy rains. And communities in Khartoum, where CRS had constructed drainage ditches as a disaster risk reduction measure, were less affected by the floods.
“Most families are now back in their houses but many of the structures are damaged. And continued rains make progress difficult,” Shaadin said. “We have never experienced this level of flooding before.”