Khartoum’s roadside refugees call for help after floods

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It looks as if an earthquake, not a flood, hit the Khartoum district of Sharq ElNeel. Heavy roofs have collapsed in on themselves, crushing what was below, while the bricks in less sturdy homes have simply tumbled down, forming piles of rubble.

Two weeks after the worst flooding in years hit Sudan’s capital region, killing about 30 and affecting more than 84 000, ankle-deep muddy water still covers this district east of the Blue Nile River. Sharq ElNeel is one of the worst-hit areas.

“Now this street is my home,” says Jamaal Hamad, one of dozens of roadside refugees who have set up camp in this mixed residential and farming area. They have carried beds through the water, attached pieces of wood and cloth, and built crude shelters next to the busy two-lane paved street.

“Our house was destroyed and we live under the sun now. We even lost all our furniture,” says Ali Mohammed, a laborer who earns 600 pounds a month. “So I cannot save money for rebuilding. We really need help from the government and others,” he says.

Sudanese Red Crescent Society and other non-governmental groups have given them plastic sheeting and deliver some food.

Another laborer, Ajab Mohammed Ali, says the heavy rains which began on August 1 even swept away the donkey cart on which his livelihood depended. The donkey survived. Some of the animals wait near the beds of their owners, oblivious to passing traffic.

“The clothes you see me wearing are what I had on the day of the disaster,” says another displaced man, Mohammed Nayeem Adam.

He had come to get drinking water dispensed from a cube-shaped tank by two young men. Adam said he would carry it back through the mud to the remains of his home, where his family still stayed.

But help has started to arrive for those affected. The displaced said the Sudanese Red Crescent Society and other non-governmental groups have given them plastic sheeting and deliver some food each day.

Two white Red Crescent tents were seen farther along the road, near a traffic jam caused by crews digging and repairing electricity pylons. A van arrived with bread, and a few army officers also visited the displaced. Two boats sat in the mud while, farther away, the opposition Umma party readied a pair of aid trucks.

In another part of Khartoum relatively untouched by flooding, volunteers crowded the offices of Nafeer, a youth group which came together to assist people in Sharq ElNeel and other badly affected communities.

“Of course, we cannot meet all the needs of Khartoum state but we are filling some gaps,” says Muaz Ibrahim, a doctor and one of about 2 000 volunteers with Nafeer. He said local and expatriate Sudanese have donated food, clothing, mosquito nets and cash for the flood victims.

Nafeer’s storeroom is filled with drinking water and colored plastic food bags, each with packages of flour, noodles, biscuits and sugar-enough to feed 10 people for one day. But with fears of more rain, the roadside refugees say they have not yet received enough help to deal with the losses they have already suffered.

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