Youth to the Rescue as Flooding Paralyzes Sudan

12 August 2013
Author: UNFPA
Following the intense flooding in Khartoum, young people were in the forefront of helping UNFPA understand the situation on the ground and delivering supplies. Photo © Nafeer Sudan

KHARTOUM — Thousands of Sudanese households were destroyed when heavy rains caused severe flooding during the first week of August, with Sudan's capital, Khartoum, being hit the hardest. After the second round of flash flooding on 9 August, the death total in Khartoum rose from an estimated 8 to 38 people.

More than 14,000 homes housing some 72,500 people were flooded, according to the Nafeer youth initiative, a volunteer group established in Khartoum to support flood response operations. The group is playing a dynamic role in the relief effort, and using social media to identify those in need of food, shelter and water.

At least 950 homes in identified areas were completely destroyed, while 759 homes suffered partial collapse. However, many more neighbourhoods near Khartoum were submerged under water and completely inaccessible.

Springing into action after the first heavy rains

After the first onset of heavy rains, UNFPA Sudan established an emergency task force to establish a three-pronged response to the Khartoum flooding. It also worked closely with the Nafeer youth initiative who helped distribute 500 dignity kits (containing basic hygiene items), 1,000 clean delivery kits for pregnant women who may not be able to reach a health facility and 15 delivery kits for midwives.

 Nafeer (see the group's Twitter feed) also helped UNFPA to establish a referral mechanism for pregnant women and emergency deliveries. "Visiting Nafeer's centre of operations is the most energizing experience you can imagine," says Pamela DeLargy, UNFPA's Representative in Sudan. " Young people have organized themselves in a remarkable way – the place is a buzz of activity and positive spirit and cooperation: a communications team, an inventory team, a finance team and an assessment team. Young people sorting and packing relief supplies and organizing data on the damage." UNFPA also allocated three of its four-by-four vehicles and drivers to support Nafeer's data-collection team, which gathers information and assesses daily needs.

Young reinforcements and stockpiled supplies

Youth volunteers have been instrumental in identifying vulnerable people. Photo © Nafeer Sudan

In July, UNFPA worked with UNICEF and WHO, and with the High Council for Civil Defence of Sudan to help the Ministry of Health to undertake several measures to prepare for the rainy season and possible mass flooding. A special emergency stockpile, containing emergency health items, including emergency medicine and equipment, was established to meet the demands of 500,000 people. UNFPA has so far provided the Ministry of Health with dignity kits as well as clean delivery kits for distribution.

With more heavy rain on 9 August, reports of new flood-affected areas begin to emerge and require immediate response. UNFPA is therefore supporting Y-Peer leaders from Darfur and Blue Nile states, who have been extensively trained in humanitarian response and community organizing skills, to come to the capital this week to train its Y-Peer volunteers from Khartoum as well as Nafeer youth volunteers. This will ensure that the different youth teams can respond more rapidly and efficiently to the pressing needs of the vulnerable people in the flood-stricken areas, as well as how to support the youth from the affected in organizing themselves and assisting their own communities.

"There's a whirlwind of activity," said Ms. Delargy," I am proud to support young people and also proud that so many of our UNFPA Sudan staff are also  volunteering."

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