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SUDAN: Thousands of IDPs affected by floods in North Darfur

8/15/2005 5:13pm

NAIROBI, 15 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - Pounding rains on Friday night damaged a dam, causing heavy flooding that affected nearly 800 displaced families in Abu Shouk camp in the strife-torn Sudanese state of North Darfur, aid workers said.

"According to a rapid assessment by the humanitarian agencies, 778 families were affected by the flooding," Lidia Hernandez Alonso, camp coordinator for the Spanish Red Cross in Abu Shouk, said.

"The rain damaged a dam that was built to prevent the wadi [seasonal riverbed] to the west of Abu Shouk from flooding," Alonso added. "When the dam broke, the IDP [internally displaced person] camp flooded."

Sections of Abu Shouk were still under water on Monday and several parts of the nearby capital of North Darfur, El Fasher, were also flooded, according to Caesar Hall, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) water and environmental sanitation project manager in the state.

The acting head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in El Fasher, Aoibheann O'keeffe, told IRIN the families closest to the wadi had lost their homes, shelter materials and a month's food rations, which had been distributed just before the flooding.

"No deaths have been reported," she added.

In Abu Shouk, five hand pumps were under water and five water tankers could not be operated, Hall said, while as many as 447 latrines had been flooded.

O'keeffe said the Sudanese health ministry was doing a rapid health assessment and had started - in conjunction with the UN World Health Organization - a health and sanitation sensitisation campaign to avoid outbreaks of diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria and possibly cholera.

Aid workers had chlorinated all water sources, she added, and were monitoring the water quality.

"No cholera should arise," O'keeffe noted, adding that because of the rainy season, an emergency surveillance system for seven key diseases had been set up prior to the flooding, and they were well prepared for the emergency.

It was not immediately clear whether the flooded area could be rehabilitated or whether the residents near the wadi would have to be relocated.

"Some families already moved spontaneously to an adjacent area northeast of the camp, while others are staying with relatives in the camp," she said.

"The Sudanese authorities and the humanitarian agencies closely cooperated to address this emergency," O'keeffe added. "This is a very positive development."

According to UNICEF's Hall, El Salaam IDP camp, just across the wadi from Abu Shouk, did not sustain any serious damage or flooding.

The water supply in El Fasher town was badly affected, however, after three pipelines crossing the wadi near the airport were swept away in the flood.

Damage to another, larger pipeline - due to flooding on 3 August - had not yet been repaired. As a result, no piped water was available in El Fasher.

"El Fasher residents are collecting water from the town's wells instead," Hall noted.

Eight people died in the heavy rains that flooded El Fasher town on 3 August. More than two thousand families were affected and an estimated 600 houses destroyed, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reported on Wednesday.

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