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Sudan stricken by devastating floods

  • Story Highlights
  • August 2007 saw torrential rains and severe flooding in Sudan
  • The waters destroyed more than 12,000 homes and killed 12 people
  • The German Red Cross and Sudanese Red Crescent are providing aid
  • Next Article in World »
By Till Mayer for CNN
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Sudan (CNN) -- It is hot. So hot, that the mud on Faqeir Edris Faqeir's hands dries in less than a minute. As the old man rubs the palms of his hands together little bits of clay land in front of his feet. In the swamp where his house used to stand only one wall remains; the floods took the rest.

After the flooding there is a lack of fresh water for towns in Sudan.

It happened late one night back in August as Faqeir Edris Faqeir lay in his bedroom, listening to the water as it drummed angrily on the roof of his home.

It had been raining for hours.

Despite the torrential rains he was confident that the family home, surrounded by a wall, would be safe from the floods. That had always been the way in Kosti, every time the rains came. "The wall will hold, even if the water rises," the 70-year-old told himself.

When he woke up hours later, everything was already under water and the unmade road in front of his house had mutated into a raging stream. He and seven members of his family got out of the house, but could only stand by helplessly and watch as the walls collapsed.

"I've never seen anything like it in any rainy season," says Faqeir Edris Faqeir quietly.

Over half a million people have been affected by the floods in Sudan, where water has swept homes, belongings and livelihoods away.

In response to this humanitarian emergency the International Federation is currently appealing for 7,498,940 Swiss francs ($6,418,638) to assist 200,000 vulnerable people in the affected regions as they try to rebuild their shattered lives.

The statistics make grim reading for the people of Kosti. "We're mourning twelve dead, and 12,600 houses in Kosti have been damaged or destroyed," says Osama Osman, local director of the Sudanese Red Crescent Society.

Staff and volunteers from the Sudanese Red Crescent have been working tirelessly in Kosti, and throughout the country's flood-affected regions, for several weeks since the floods began. Together with State and other organizations, they are distributing water purification tablets, mosquito nets, buckets, jerrycans, food, tents and plastic sheeting.

But with latrines washed away and water pipes damaged fears are growing over the contamination of the water supply and those living in affected areas are now facing the added threat of water-borne diseases.

Where the Faqeirs live, hardly a latrine has remained undamaged meaning that feces and rubbish now flows into drinking sources, creating massive health risks for the people in the area.

Faqeir Edris Faqeir can see the tap-stand sticking out of the mud. The old man turns it on, but nothing comes out. Even if it did, the family would be unable to drink it. Emergency drainage channels, which were hastily dug throughout the affected area so the floodwaters could drain away, have damaged many water mains, allowing the water to become contaminated.

In response to this desperate situation, the German Red Cross has set up a drinking water system to provide the residents of Kosti with clean, safe drinking water and to mitigate the spread of water-borne disease.

"Clean drinking water is one of the top priorities after a disaster like this, otherwise diarrhea-type illness can take on epidemic proportions" says Johann Keppler from the German Red Cross.

"We will be supplying at least 20,000 people with drinking water, and we're currently looking at whether to increase capacity."

Behind him, two water tanks gleam in the sun. They have just been flown in from Germany and assembled less than two kilometers from the Faqeirs.

"We pump the contaminated water from the existing pipes into the tanks, purify it and then make it available to the population" he continued.

Across the flood-affected areas of Sudan the International Federation is working to provide 177,400 people with clean and safe drinking water.

In Kosti the German Red Cross, working with four trained members of staff from the Sudanese Red Crescent, are helping to set up and operate the water system and another ten people from Kosti are to be trained.


"By the time the German Red Cross pulls out, our friends from the Sudanese Red Crescent will be fully trained. That's a major boost to local disaster response capacity, an investment in a safer future," explains Keppler.

Less than two kilometers away, a 70-year-old man has to start again from scratch. Faqeir Edris Faqeir could rescue little more out of the mud today. But maybe soon clean water will be coming out of his tap again and that would be a good start. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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