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Eastern Sudan: UNHCR part of joint UN flood relief effort

Briefing notes

Eastern Sudan: UNHCR part of joint UN flood relief effort

13 July 2007

UNHCR is taking part in a joint UN relief effort to help flood victims in the refugee hosting area of Kassala state in eastern Sudan as well as in northern Blue Nile state and in four camps for displaced near Khartoum. All were affected by heavy rains at the start of the rainy season.

Yesterday (Thursday) in Kassala State we distributed 3,000 blankets and 1,500 sleeping mats to the local community of Wad Sharife town, located some 350 km east of Khartoum. While the 12 refugee camps in eastern Sudan, hosting 136,000 Eritrean, Ethiopian and Somali refugees were not directly affected by the heavy rains on Sunday and Monday, an estimated 7,000 people living in villages close to the flooded Al Gash River bordering Eritrea have suffered considerable damage to their homes.

Houses have been partially washed away, leaving many people with no choice but to sleep in the open while others sought shelter with relatives or elsewhere. Floods happen regularly in eastern Sudan, but this year's rains, with the rainy season only at its start, have already reached record levels.

Our help to the flood victims is part of a joint relief effort which also includes other UN agencies such as UNICEF, WFP and WHO along with international and local NGOs. On Sunday, we plan to take part in a joint emergency assessment by air to map the extent of the damage in the east and along the Blue Nile River. Sudan has asked UN agencies to assist flood victims in North Kassala State and in the badly hit city of Aroma, where latest assessments show 8,000 people in the area need to be evacuated.

In addition, UNHCR, the government Commissioner for Refugees (COR) and the health ministry, will jointly conduct a water assessment in Wad Sharife area and Wad Sharife refugee camp, which hosts over 33,000 refugees. During his visit to the area in late April, High Commissioner António Guterres referred to the refugees in eastern Sudan as "the forgotten people" living among very poor but generous eastern Sudanese who have shared their scarce resources with them for the past 40 years.

We are also part of an emergency task force of UN agencies and international NGOs - to assist thousands of flood victims in four camps for displaced people near the capital Khartoum (Jebel Awlia, Mayo, Umbdawanban and Ailafoon). Initial estimates show 6,453 households - or up to 30,000 people - have been severely affected there as well as in several villages in northern Blue Nile State.

Plastic sheeting for shelter, blankets, sleeping mats and jerry cans are items most needed. Large tents may also be needed to replace school buildings which have collapsed.