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UN Issues Global Alert Concerning Flooding in Sudan - 2001-08-23

Severe flooding in northern Sudan has destroyed crops and left many people homeless. Officials from the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) are worried about the impact the flooding will have on Sudan's already precarious food situation.

Like all those who live near the Nile River, the people of northern Sudan are accustomed to the river's annual flooding. But this year's flooding is the worst in years. Some villages north of Sudan have been completely submerged, forcing tens-of-thousands to leave their homes.

The Food and Agricultural Organization has issued a global alert to warn people about the devastating effect the flooding will have.

The organization's emergency co-ordinator, Yves Couvreur, says he fears the floodwaters will wash away crops and livestock, leaving thousands of Sudanese destitute. "Along the Nile River you have specific farming systems, animals, fruit trees, vegetables," he says. "Of course, after a couple of days and weeks of flooding the harvest will be destroyed. These people will not benefit from their production and they will be in very bad situations."

The Sudanese government is appealing to all those who live close to the river to evacuate their homes. Mr. Couvreur says the situation could worsen in the next couple of weeks. "The flood is fluctuating according to the rain in Ethiopia. We never know," he says. "There might be another peak next week. It is too early. It is not over. We already face a catastrophic situation. We need to wait until beginning of September. This will be the end of this peak period."

Even before the floods, Sudan was bracing itself for a poor harvest because of a drought that began two years ago. Also affecting the food situation is an upsurge in fighting in Sudan's civil war that has forced thousands to abandon their homes and farmlands.

The FAO is appealing for international aid to rescue people stranded by the flooding and provide them with food, drinking water, and medicines. The agency says it also needs seeds and tools so farmers can prepare, after the water subsides, for the next harvest.