SUDAN: Floods put 3.5 million people at risk of disease - UN

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The UN has warned that an estimated 3.5 million people are at risk of disease because of the floods that have claimed 90 lives and affected 400,000 people across the country. The warning followed an appeal by the UN and the government of Sudan for US$20 million to help support the flood victims.

More than 12,000 livestock and 16,000 chickens perished in the floods that inundated over 40,000 hectares of agricultural lands, according to the UN. The floods also destroyed 250 schools, displacing about 56,000 pupils.

“This appeal requests a total amount of $20.2 million to address the urgent humanitarian and some limited early recovery needs of the affected population in the coming six months,” the UN said in a statement issued on 28 August.

The head of the government’s Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) said only a handful of Sudan’s 26 states had escaped the fury of the torrential rains and flash floods that have been battering the country for the past two months.

“Nineteen out of the 29 states have been affected, eight of them in a serious way,” Hassabo Abdel Rahman told reporters at the launch of the appeal.

South Sudan, which was spared much of the devastation of previous flooding, was hit hard this year, as heavy rains threatened people and livelihoods in six of its 10 states.

“These six states are really affected very heavily,” said Simon Kuhn, commissioner for the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC). He warned that damage to farmlands and the loss of livestock on which the majority of southerners depend could lead to starvation.

“The scale of what has happened in Sudan is extraordinary, I think, in comparison with previous years,” said John Clarke, the UN official leading the relief effort.

Records broken

Officials said this year’s rains and flooding were the worst in living memory.

In eastern Sudan for instance, the level of the River Gash rose to a record high of 3m compared with 2.7 metres in 2003 when it almost submerged Kassala town.

“There is substantial damage and substantial work needs to be done to rebuild lost livelihoods,” said Clarke.

The flash appeal aims to secure funding for projects in six main sectors: food security and livelihood, health and nutrition, non-food items and shelter, water and sanitation, basic infrastructure and settlement development and education.

Initial estimates indicate that $3.5 million will be required for food and security. This will be used to fund projects managed by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), relevant government bodies and other NGOs.

Between 65 and 80 percent of the population reside in rural areas, predominantly dependent on subsistence farming and/or livestock herding and fishing.

“In northern Sudan, six states are in need of emergency agricultural and livestock support,” according to the UN.

These include Blue Nile, Kassala, Northern Kordofan, Red Sea, Southern Kordofan and White Nile.

In southern Sudan, the most vulnerable flood-affected households are in the Upper Nile, Jongolei and Unity states.

It is estimated that 200,000 people will require emergency food assistance until the end of the rainy season in September and beyond.

WFP is already providing assistance to 55,000 people affected by the floods.

Health risks

The appeal also seeks $3.8 million for health and nutrition programmes across the country, much of which will go to the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and their partners.

“It is estimated that approximately 3.5 million persons affected by the floods are at risk of disease outbreaks, due to their lack of access to safe water and to sanitation services,” the UN said in a report this week.

Since April, “810 suspected cases of acute watery diarrhoea have been reported, leading to 57 known deaths”, it added.

“Due to ongoing heavy rains and floods in many parts of the country, the emergency situation and its consequences are expected to worsen,” the UN warned.

Projects planned under the health and nutrition programme hope to “control and prevent diseases by providing essential drugs, medical supplies and equipment”, it added.

UNICEF and its partners are providing 1.6 million people with clean water, and WHO, the federal ministry of health and partners have helped establish 17 treatment centres.

The UN also needs $3.3 million for non-food items and emergency shelter that will be channeled through the UN Joint Logistics Center and its partners.

Some 40,000 households affected by the floods have received assistance through this programme, which provided essential supplies, including plastic sheeting, blankets, cooking sets, jerry cans and sleeping mats.

“There is every likelihood of greatly increased NFI [non-food items] demands in coming months in light of exacerbation of flood conditions by continuing rains, increasingly large affected areas and assessment results slowly coming from less accessible areas,” the UN pointed out.

Water and sanitation programmes will require an estimated $5.2 million.

The UN stated: “It is estimated that 300,000 people, who are displaced or whose water systems were damaged due to flooding, are in need of water supply and sanitation services.”

Persons living in flood-affected areas, it said, “face a higher risk of disease primarily due to the lack of access to clean water, poor sanitation and hygiene, reduced access to basic primary healthcare due to deteriorating roads and inaccessible or non-functional healthcare facilities”.

The UN estimates that $2.4 million will be needed to rebuild the education sector. In northern Sudan, the floods disrupted schooling for 44,000 pupils by destroying infrastructure and equipment.

UN officials expressed optimism the majority of these goals would be met. “We are pleased with the overall response to date,” said Oluseyi Bajulaiye, the acting UN resident humanitarian coordinator.

Source: IRIN