Historic Floods Threaten Sudan’s Economy and Ancient Pyramids

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Contributing Writer

After heavy seasonal rains late last month and in early September, in Sudan, the White Nile and the Blue Nile, its main tributary, have flooded, causing the death of over 100 people and the damage of over 100,000 homes, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.  The flooding has exceeded river level records set during 1946 and 1988. Even the Sudanese ancient pyramids are under threat — particularly the 2300-year-old Meroë Pyramids, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is ordinarily situated 550 yards from the Nile.  The Voice of America reported that the national museum of Sudan also flooded and UNESCO has evacuated artifacts from it.

Why this matters:  Climate change-related flooding is devastating the country. More than 500,000 people have been affected in 17 of the country’s 18 states. And in Khartoum state alone, more than 100,000 people are in need of shelter after having lost their homes.  Moreover, the flooding has increased discontent with Sudan’s transitional government, which came to power last year, as climate events like this can be destabilizing. On September 10th, the government declared a 3-month state of emergency after its currency fell sharply, and the government took additional steps to shore up its economy and solicit aid.  The question is will that be enough.

Will climate change render Sudan uninhabitable?

These floods have arrived after years of weather-related disasters plaguing Sudan. Average temperatures in Sudan have increased dramatically, while rainfall has grown erratic, making much of Sudan increasingly inhospitable to agriculture. These weather conditions cause droughts, sandstorms, and floods, destroying Sudan’s crops and displacing thousands of people. Moreover, Sudan ranks 107th out of 117 countries in the Global Hunger Index, as one of the top 10 most food-insecure countries in the world, making it particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Mutual Aid Triumphs

In the face of dissatisfaction with the government’s flood response, youth groups have stepped up to distribute aid. Most notably, “Nafeer,” a Sudanese youth-led mutual aid initiative named after an Arabic word meaning “a call to mobilise,” has organized to combat the effects of the flood. Originally established in the aftermath of Sudan’s 2013 floods, Nafeer sprang into action in August, creating a referral mechanism for pregnant women who need emergency deliveries, and distributing donations for those in need.

Reuters reported that there are many refugees searching for shelter after the floods.  One refugee told Reuters, “We hope that things get better, that this flood gets better. But from what we see, what is coming may be harder… that is why we are calling on everyone to stand by the citizens, the simple, poor citizens who have lost their shelter and home.”  According to Reuters, assistance is needed urgently for 85,000 internally displaced and 40,000 refugees have been affected by the floods in Khartoum, in eastern Sudan, along the White Nile, and in the troubled Darfur region.


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