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Sudan Faces Worst Floods in 20 Years

19 July 2007

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says Sudan is facing its worst flood season in almost two decades. The agency says Sudan is in urgent need of international assistance to help shelter tens of thousands of homeless people and to stave off potential disease outbreaks. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Red Cross headquarters in Geneva.

The rains came early this year, causing the Nile and other rivers to overflow. The floods have reportedly affected about one-half-million people across 10 of Sudan's 26 states. Local authorities believe nearly 40 people have lost their lives.

The future prospect looks grim as weather forecasters expect the rains to continue until mid-October. They predict as many as 2.5 million people across 16 States could ultimately be affected.

Niels Scott, Operations Coordinator for Africa for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, tells VOA many thousands of people already have had their homes and livelihoods washed away in the growing deluge.

"Tens of thousands of people have had their homes damaged and tens of thousands of people have had their homes completely destroyed. And, as for their livelihoods, yes. Crops are wrecked," said Scott. "Grain stores are almost swept away. People's businesses are ruined in a number of places, especially in urban areas. So, the impact is substantial."

Scott says access to some areas is difficult and can only be reached by helicopter. He says areas in the north and east of the country are expected to bear the brunt of the damage in the coming months.

He says flooding in conflict-ridden Darfur is mainly centered in urban areas; such as el-Fasher. He says it is five times more difficult to deal with emergencies such as this in places with large-scale displacement.

"Flash floods can occur overnight," he said. "The infrastructure is already weak. You have a population in a place like el-Fasher, which is now double what it was 10 years ago. People living in makeshift accommodation. You can imagine when you are living in tents, the impact of rain and ... you can imagine the impact on a family of five or six in a makeshift shelter of a storm of that type. It must be really awful to live through it."

The Red Cross is appealing for more than $1.5 million. Scott explains this is only a preliminary appeal, which will be followed by a more substantial one after the full extent of the damage and needs is assessed.

He says the money will support the Sudanese Red Crescent in its effort to assist 40,000 people in eight states. He says priority needs include shelter material, such as plastic sheeting, blankets, health care and sanitation to try to prevent epidemics from breaking out.

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