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Rains Devastate Sudanese Relief Efforts


In Sudan, torrential rains and overflowing rivers are causing misery for tens of thousands of people across the country. The unusually heavy downpours began several weeks ago and have especially affected the less-developed southern region of the country. Top local officials there have declared six of the region's 10 states a disaster zone. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu has details from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.

Government officials in the capital, Khartoum, say raging flood waters killed more than 60 people and injured nearly 150 others last month across Sudan and have swept away homes, roads, and countless livestock.

The government of South Sudan says it believes more than 12,000 people have been affected by floods, including thousands who have lost their homes in Unity and Upper Nile States.

The head of the U.N. Resident Coordinator's Office for the Upper Nile State, Meredith Preston McGhie, says the worst-affected areas are in Renk County, where heavy rains caused a nearby river to burst its banks.

Road construction in the area hampered drainage, causing floodwaters to rise. She says 2,000 people have been displaced and 5,500 people in Renk Country are in desperate need of drinking water and shelter.

McGhie acknowledges that the scope of the disaster in southern Sudan is not on the scale of the last month's flooding in Britain, which has affected nearly half-a-million people.

But she says aid agencies believe the situation in southern Sudan is dire.

"It is an emergency in the sense that the coping capacity of people in a lot of these areas is lower and often access is very, very difficult," she explained. "A lot of the basic subsistence level of people in South Sudan is such that when everything goes, they really have no safety net.

Thousands of people have been returning to the South after a 2005 peace deal ended the country's two-decade long civil war.

The floods are a setback for the regional government and humanitarian groups, who have been struggling to build infrastructure, such as roads, and provide housing and basic services.

South Sudan officials say international aid agencies are distributing food and drugs and the regional government has allocated $1 million in aid for Unity and Upper Nile States. The central government in Khartoum has contributed blankets and plastic sheeting.

In northern Sudan, more than 40,000 families, living in semi-desert areas, are said to have been left homeless after their rain-saturated mud-brick houses collapsed. At least 140 public buildings in the north, including schools and hospitals, have reportedly been badly damaged by floods and mudslides.

In Khartoum, worried residents have been stacking sand bags along the banks of Africa's largest river, the Nile. Health officials say they are spraying insecticides in the capital to prevent an epidemic of diseases carried by mosquitos and flies.

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