This year was an exceptional year on the Middle Eastern and international scale; the world witnessed a disruption on all fronts. While Sudan is in the midst of its second year of political transition, the economy has suffered greatly with the onslaught of the Coronavirus pandemic and recently the floods that took a toll on Sudan's state of affairs.
It became obvious that in times of crisis and regular citizens willingly serve with limited manpower and financial capacity while they risk their own lives. For many, they are the only line of defense against circumstances such as floods. This year, the floods caused major damage and displaced thousands in various states in the country such as Sinnar, Al Jazeira, including districts within the capital such as Omdurman and Kalakla.
Floods in Al Kalakla
On September 12th, I went to Kalakla Al Qobba with a photographer to explore the amount of destruction the floods caused and ask around about the conditions of the people residing in that area. It was overwhelmingly devastating. Most of the houses collapsed due to the fast currents coming in from the Nile. The streets were fully covered with water so people had to use small boats to move around the neighborhoods. We, the photographer and I, had to reach out by one in order to sit down with one of the victims. The victim is a member of the resistance committee that took part in assisting and helping the community throughout the calamity.
Boats became the only means to move around neighborhoods during the floods - Captured by Huzaifa Mohamed Ali
He recalled how the Nile began to increase on August 13th, flowing in so fast that it inundated three houses within an hour. He goes on describing how he forced the residents out of the house and the psychological state they were in; "we were close to one of the houses that looked vulnerable as the currents continued hitting it. We knew there were people inside so we rushed in to desperately attempt to rescue them. They rejected to leave at first but we finally managed to get them out. They were very emotional and it's understandable because they had to leave behind the only house they ever owned. There was nowhere else for them to go to. After the evacuation, one of the resistance committee members was trying to save some of the residents' belongings but it was too late; the roof collapsed over him and he died instantly. He was the last person to leave the house. It was one of the worst days for everyone because we witnessed everything."
One of the many houses that collapsed dring the floods in Al Klakla - Captured by Huzaifa Mohamed Ali
I asked him how did they dealt with this rapid increase of the Nile and he noted they were expecting the currents to hit their houses as they are located on low grounds but were unable to build more barricades due to the shortage of sandbags. He added “we heard of nearby aid associations that can provide us with sandbags, so we headed towards one. When we arrived, they told us that they were unable to do so because it was difficult for them to reach these neighborhoods. The roads were bumpy and not safe enough for driving. In addition, there were not enough sandbags to cover large areas such as Kalakla. Eventually, the authorities came to supply us with dirt and bags for us to pack and barricade them across the coast. There were other organizations and companies that also provided aid. worked together with local committees to organize and distribute food by boats to the victims.”
There were not many barricades to protect the houses against the floods - Huzaifa Mohamed Ali
"As for homeless victims, the committee knew their whereabouts and managed to provide them with food and shelter too". He noted, “we are all part of this community and must give a hand when needed."
Describing the situation, he mentioned that support and aid wouldn't have arrived if it wasn't for the committee reaching out, insisting and constantly following up with the authorities. He recalled “when they finally arrived, they didn’t provide much to cover the needed. We eventually found out why, and it was because one of the distributors stored away supplies worth SDG 1,300 from us. We also heard there was financial support too, but hadn't received anything.",
I caught sight of tents built in a square near Soug Sitta in El Kalakla El-Qobba. I asked about who provided those tents, the committee member said that the authorities did. To my surprise, they only provided seven tents, each can only accommodate a maximum of 4 people. He exclaimed “thank God we don't need these tents. We are all a community of this area and we act like a family at such times. If one had lost his house - and we know how difficult it is to lose a home - we open our house for them and their family. Unfortunately, some use these situations to take advantage of the victims, who are desperate for food or shelter.” In some areas like the south of Kalakla and Aweil which are known for their poor service and infrastructure, many took refuge in tents, even before the floods started.
Solutions to the Floods
We continued speaking about the ramifications of the floods, precisely how they deal with the spread of diseases and the damages after the floods. He replied, "medical professionals have built in a small dispensary in the area to provide medical supplies for everyone and they are available 24/7.” About the future he noted, “when the level of the Nile drops, we will work side by side with engineers to evaluate if the houses in the area are safe to return to and mark the ones that are not- to advise people not to come close to them.” The information on the conditions of the victims was collected by the locality and the committee will assess and prioritize who needs the most help. The floods had attracted mosquitoes, hence malaria is expected to spread. Therefore, he said “we arranged mosquito nets to be distributed and decided to frequently spray anti-mosquito repellents across the neighborhood. We also added and built more barricades in case the flooding increases again. We need to protect ourselves and we need more support as it is."
Kids lost their homes to the floods - Captured by Huzaifa Mohamed Ali
There are more areas in Khartoum and outside of the capital that had been affected even more than Kalakla Al Qobba, this is in fact a major humanitarian crisis. Government and other bodies, such as the army and local humanitarian organizations, must act swiftly to support the affected and seek preventative measures to reduce more loss and casualties. On the other hand, scientists and environmentalists should work together to establish findings on why the Nile acted this way. From analysis and results, they should form solutions to avoid any reoccurrence of flood damages. On an individual level, citizens must unite in these crises and open their doors to help all those in need, as it is emotionally distressful losing one’s home and loved ones.
We must work together with the Resistance Committees and other associations alike as they have proven that they are invested in protecting & bettering the lives of citizens.
How can you help?
Sudan needs support more than ever. If you want to help the victims of the floods in Al Kalakla district or in other areas in Sudan, you can donate to – which means "run", or as it traditionally refers to a "run to help". Nafeer is a Sudanese non-profit organization that works in assisting in people in need and crisis management. This initiative will help the victims of the floods by providing temporary shelters, cover urgent food needs, and handle medical emergencies resulting from the disaster