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Health and humanitarian agencies are bracing themselves for further deterioration in conditions throughout Sudan after record levels of rainfall threaten to affect millions more people.
More than 100 people have already died, and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by “the worst flooding in a generation,” according to the Sudanese news agency. With even heavier rainfall forecast throughout Darfur and central Sudan and Chad, relief officials are concerned that worse is yet to come and fear serious disruption to aid corridors and protection of civilians.
The World Health Organization warned, “The Nile and Blue Nile rivers are reaching alert level. Flash floods are expected to affect North, South, and West Darfur, North Kordofan, Tendalti, and areas of White Nile. Floods are already reported in Red Sea and White Nile states, and in Khartoum.”
After touring flooded areas of Khartoum last week, Claire-Lise Chaignat, head of WHO's cholera taskforce, told the BMJ, “Further heavy rains are expected that are believed to be even more serious than in previous years. The big concern is, of course, waterborne diseases, and thinking of the huge epidemic that swept over the 25 states of Sudan last year, there is serious concern that a cholera epidemic might start again.” Last year more than 2000 cases of cholera were recorded in Darfur alone.
Dr Chaignat said that the Federal Ministry of Health had learnt from last year's experiences and had been recently “actively preparing for the coming cholera season” and has already positioned emergency supplies and strengthened the surveillance system.
WHO reported, “In Kassala [in eastern Sudan] flooding of the River Gash has left an estimated 20000 people homeless. As rains continue, a rise in the number of victims is expected. Most of the affected people are sleeping in the open, using flood water for their daily needs. No sanitation facilities or health centre are accessible around the resettlement areas and the health situation may soon deteriorate, given poor sanitation and risk of waterborne diseases.”
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies last week issued an appeal for people affected: “Weeks of unseasonably heavy rain have already caused the Nile river and other seasonal rivers to overflow, affecting people across 10 of the country's 26 states. With the season expected to run until mid-October, meteorological organisations in the region are predicting that as many as 2.4 million people across 16 states could be affected.”
Key UK charities warned in a recent appeal of the disasters emergency committee, “Health needs in Darfur and Chad are greater than ever after four years of conflict and could escalate further if the impending rains lead to cholera and malaria outbreaks.”
“With aid agencies already battling to construct and maintain clean water supply lines, the downpours expected . . . could lead to further contamination of water sources. The result—pools of stagnant water—provides ideal breeding sites for mosquitoes and increase the risks of fatal diseases.”
Britain, meanwhile, last week also encountered the worst rainfall in living memory, with over five inches recorded in a single day in some areas, leading to widespread flooding.
The Red Cross assisted in evacuating patients from Tewkesbury hospital, thousands of households have been cut off from water and electricity, and people in affected areas have been advised to boil their water.