August 6th, 2007 08:44 EST
Some 500,000 Sudanese flood victims receive emergency aid from UN, partners
Up to half a million Sudanese flood victims have received emergency aid from United Nations agencies and their partners, including water purification products to avert the huge risk of epidemics, in the wake of four weeks after torrential rains that have devastated many parts of the vast country.
“Although the floods came earlier than expected, the response has been swift and successful,” acting UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator David Gressly said today. “We had contingency measures in place, and were able to prevent further distress to the population.”
But he warned that if current flooding patterns continued unabated, the situation would deteriorate considerably. The rains are expected to continue until at least mid-September.
The UN and its partners have so far supplied essential supplies to some 200,000 people, whose indispensable household goods were lost in the destruction. Families received badly needed commodities, such as blankets, plastic sheeting for shelter, jerry cans for carrying and storing clean water, cooking sets, and sleeping mats. But it is estimated that many more people will need similar relief over the coming months.
Amidst the risk of waterborne epidemics, the lack of clean water has been a primary concern. In cooperation with the Government, the UN and partners have so far provided purification products and hygiene education to some 500,000 people without access to clean water, with over 1,400 kilograms of chlorine powder and 878,000 chlorine tablets already supplied.
In Kassala near the Eritrean border, tankers are delivering clean water to the worst affected, covering at least 10,000 people. Over the rest of the rainy season clean water – a potential life-saver – will continue to be a priority need for hundreds of thousands.
Despite these measures, 637 cases of suspected acute watery diarrhoea were reported in the states of Gedaref and Kassala in the country’s east, leading to 39 known deaths. Emergency epidemic surveillance measures have been put in place, along with pre-positioning of preventive and curative health supplies. Over 34,000 people in the affected areas have received cholera awareness education.
In order to respond to the increased risk of potential diseases transmittable by insects, the UN and partners will endeavour to procure sufficient medicines, mosquito nets, insecticides and other supplies to cover all those in need until the emergency is over.
So far, 40,000 flood victims have received food, but the UN estimates that many more could soon be in need of emergency food rations.
“We are working closely with the Government, to reach accurate estimates of the needs of those affected, and of the funding requirements,” said John Clarke, the UN official at the forefront in coordinating the response to the floods. “This will ensure that, together, we maximize the efficiency of our efforts to bring relief to those in need.”
The worst affected areas are the states of Kassala, Khartoum, Northern Kordofan, Unity, and Upper Nile. Well over 30,000 houses were fully destroyed there and at least 365,000 people have already been directly affected, including a reported 64 dead and 335 injured.
On a second front, some 4.9 million children across the north of Sudan are being targeted in a special three-day round of polio immunization starting today, led by the Health Ministry and backed by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners in response to reports of polio being discovered in neighbouring Chad.
Sudan has not reported any cases of polio itself since 2005. “In the last few years, incredible efforts in the face of many challenges have led us to a point where polio could soon be stamped out in Sudan,” UNICEF Representative Ted Chaiban said. “But because polio respects no borders, we have to ensure that when cases are found close to home, we redouble our efforts to protect children.”