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Severe flooding kills scores in Sudan

Flooding in Sudanese cities has claimed around 100 lives and displaced thousands, and many angry citizens blame the political class for its failure to act.
EBRAHIM HAMID/AFP via Getty Images

CAIRO — Sudan's rainy season brings torrential rains between May and October. This year’s ongoing flooding has wreaked havoc across Sudan, including in the northern River Nile state, in the eastern states of el-Gezira, South Kordofan and Kassala and South Darfur in the west. 

The catastrophe comes in tandem with a grueling political, economic and social crisis in Sudan since the military coup of Oct. 25, 2021, when Sudan's army dissolved the transitional government of Abdalla Hamdok and declared a state of emergency.

The floods prompted the Sudanese government to declare another state of emergency in the affected cities and deploy military equipment to help reduce human and economic losses. 

The floods claimed the lives of nearly 100 people and displaced around 136,000 from their homes, as well as destroying 31,000 homes and 238 health care facilities. 

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported Aug. 21 that over 2,500 people in el-Managil, el-Gezira were displaced by the flash floods on Aug. 16-19. The statement read, “In 2022, more than 460,000 people could be affected by the floods, according to the 2022 Sudan Emergency Response Plan.”

Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the contested Sovereign Council that is currently running the country, visited the state of el-Gezira Aug. 21 to inspect the damage. He reassured residents that the state will support them and expressed his regret for the three years of the transitional period wasted in political rivalry.

In turn, the Forces for Freedom and Change, Sudan's civilian bloc that was ousted from power in the coup, called for a transparent investigation into systemic neglect that it alleges made the floods so devastating. In an  Aug. 21 statement, the bloc demanded that the country be declared a natural disaster area to receive regional and international support.

Many Arab countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have offered food and medical assistance. 

Volker Peretz, head of the United Nations Integrated Mission to Support the Transitional Phase in Sudan, expressed his sympathy with those who lost their families, their homes or their sources of livelihood to the flooding.

In an Aug. 23 tweet, Peretz said that the aid provided by the UN has so far reached 40,000 Sudanese, that many more will need assistance in the coming days and that the crisis shows the need for cooperation among Sudan’s rival parties.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, Sudanese economist Mohammad al-Nayer said the catastrophe is a natural outcome of years of neglect and corruption.

He added, “Omar al-Bashir’s regime did not care about developing the country’s infrastructure, nor rehabilitating storm drains, nor building or rehabilitating dams. Floods and torrential rains strike Sudan annually and the Sudanese government knows what to expect. The Bashir regime and the subsequent Sudanese governments were supposed to give utmost importance to developing infrastructure and drawing up a future plan to reduce the risks of floods and inundations. But this did not happen. Rather, they were preoccupied with political rivalries and neglected any economic and social development.”

In an Aug. 21 statement on Facebook, the independent Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors warned of a health disaster in the flood-stricken areas due to the lack of medical facilities, predicting the emergence of epidemic diseases.

Khalid Omer Yousif, Sudan’s former minister of cabinet affairs, warned in an Aug. 23 tweet, “The country's pain and aches will not be limited to floods and torrential rain disasters.” 

He added that a food crisis is likely to strangle the country in the coming weeks.

“The coup has only driven the country to collapse. The forces that resisted and are still resisting must reflect on their mistakes. They must know that the chance of getting out of this dark tunnel is only through collective action,” he warned. 

Nayer noted that the floods are damaging the Sudanese economy in the billions of dollars with the destruction of both property and infrastructure.

“The catastrophe left by the floods and torrential rains has taken a toll on Sudan's people and economy. Concerted international efforts are required to provide all forms of support,” he said. “A severe economic crisis has befallen Sudan now, which ushers in many more crises, especially the looming food shortage,” he warned. 

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