Adding Insult to Injury- Flooding and Climate Change in Sudan

By Ana Torres

Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) is extremely concerned about the several reports that have been circulated in the last few weeks about deadly floods across Sudan. Floods across Sudan have become more severe in the last 30 years. Last year, for instance, Sudan experienced the worst flooding in the country in 30 years. DWAG fears that this rainy season would result in the same or even more devastating situation as last year. For this, DWAG urges the interim Sudanese government and the international community to be prepared to assist those in need but also to ensure the security and well-being of the Sudanese people. 

In October 2020, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) reported that 875,120 people were affected by floods in Sudan, 92,556 houses damaged, and 82,468 houses destroyed. This led to the displacement of numerous people due to the magnitude of destruction caused by the floods, particularly people from North Darfur, Khartoum, Blue Nile, West Darfur, and Sennar, the states hit the worst. The floods also damaged several farmlands, and many large areas of farmland from these states were underwater, compromising food security. The number of people affected by floods is likely to continue increasing as, in the last five years, the number of people affected by floods in Sudan has drastically increased. In 2015, 51,310 people were affected in comparison to nearly 900,000 in 2020. 

Moreover, due to the poor governance of the previous regime, there were not enough efforts taken to mitigate the damage or mitigate future flooding situations. Now, after the overthrow of al-Bashir, Sudan is still experiencing mismanagement of crises. This is due to the fact that, despite a significant number of people in need after the flooding from last year, the funding allocated to respond to the emergency was extremely low. According to UN OCHA, last year, only 15% of the budget needed for healthcare and 22% of the budget needed for water and hygiene needs was allocated. This led to insufficient aid resources for all the people affected and exacerbated the already catastrophic levels of suffering of the people of Sudan, who were already vulnerable due to longstanding crises.  

With the current climate emergency, DWAG fears that the suffering of the Sudanese people would continue without proper management of the crises. A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated that heavy rains fueled by warmer air will increase the number of deadly floods across the planet, among other consequences. This is particularly concerning in Sudan as to this day, climate change continues to affect the region as temperatures steadily rise and rainfall remains highly unpredictable.  

Thus far, this rainy season has resulted in several deadly floods. According to UN OCHA, heavy rains and flash flooding have so far affected 10 out of 18 states across Sudan, including El Gezira, El Gadarif, North Kordofan, River Nile state, South Darfur, South Kordofan, West Darfur, and White Nile. Also, the floods have affected over 15,700 people, and over 3,100 homes and an unconfirmed number of public infrastructure and farmlands have been either damaged or destroyed. This is dramatically increasing, as another report from UN OCHA states that the heavy rains and flash flooding have affected 8 out of the 18 states in Sudan and over 12,200 people. UN OCHA continues assessing the situation to confirm the number of people affected and identify their needs. 

The response from the interim Sudanese government and international aid organization is not sufficient to assist those in need. This is because “there are stockouts of relief supplies in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); shelter and non-food items; education; child protection, and gender-based violence.” Additionally, people from the eastern state of El Gadarif who have been displaced and sought shelter in schools are concerned about the lack of aid, including food and medicine for those in need, and called for immediate action from the interim government and aid organizations. It is imperative that the interim Sudanese government and international aid organizations step up their preparedness for this crisis and ensure the delivery of aid to those in need to prevent the mistakes and suffering of last year’s flooding. 

This lack of crisis management from the authorities is concerning, as these severe floods exacerbate the suffering of vulnerable communities such as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur and in other crises affected regions and survivors of gender-based violence (GBV).

During the rainy season, farmers cultivate their land, but when severe floods occur, the crops are damaged or underwater, leading to food insecurity. This is concerning due to the prevalence of food insecurity in Sudan. Darfur, for instance, is experiencing an increasing prevalence of food insecurity. According to the Food Security Monitoring System (FSMS), 64 percent of IDP households are food insecure in Darfur. However, providing assistance to IDPs is especially difficult during the rainy season, as flooding, heavy rains, and damaged roads lead to a limited humanitarian presence. The resources of humanitarian organizations have already been strained due to an increased number of displaced people throughout the region. Moreover, the flooding also affects the shelter of IDPs. For instance, in South Darfur, the flash floods from July 20 to July 24 hit four camps in the Nyala locality, resulting in more than 1,630 shelters being destroyed or damaged. DWAG fears the instability that will occur during the rainy season will only exacerbate the suffering. 

The effects of climate change are also particularly devastating for survivors of GBV, as the necessary resources for survivors are not available in every city. For instance, in Darfur, these resources are concentrated in the states’ capitals, making it difficult for women in more remote areas to access them due to the costs of transportation and services, stigmatization, and unsafe roads. And, as previously mentioned, flooding, heavy rains, and damaged roads, make it even more difficult for survivors to mobilize to seek these resources. DWAG urges the interim Sudanese government and the international community to take the necessary steps to expand the available services for survivors of GBV to seek health, psychological, and legal services.

DWAG calls upon the interim government to take immediate action to mitigate this crisis. This includes making a public statement announcing their plans and issuing an appeal to humanitarian agencies to intervene and provide relief across Sudan, and follow-up on efforts to meet the needs of people displaced by the floods. DWAG furthermore calls upon international humanitarian organizations, including the UN agencies operating in Sudan, to work toward providing food, clean water, safe shelter, and adequate health assistance to those in need. Only a joint effort by the interim government and international agencies can mitigate the crisis caused by climate change in Sudan. DWAG hopes to see decisive action for the well-being of the Sudanese people.  

Due to climate change, floods would continue to evolve into an emergency affecting the region. Therefore, it is also imperative that the interim government begins taking the necessary steps to ensure the well-being of the people in Darfur and throughout Sudan. Otherwise, floods will continue affecting the most vulnerable, causing more displacement and food insecurity. The Sudanese interim government must begin to invest, raise awareness, and commit to addressing environmental and climate change issues. Without sustainable measures to mitigate the climate crisis, floods will continue to become even more severe, disrupting any progress towards achieving sustainable peace in Sudan and Darfur.

Ana Torres is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in Political Science with a specialization in International Relations and a minor in Human Rights. She is currently the Outreach and Partnership Building Intern for Darfur Women Action Group.