UN agencies are conducting a joint relief effort in eastern Sudan, where floods have displaced thousands of people.

Helen Caux, a spokesperson for the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.  From Geneva, spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about humanitarian efforts.

?There were heavy rains last Sunday and Monday in east Sudan in three main areas: in the Wad Sharife, which is in Kassala State bordering Eritrea; around Khartoum, the capital, where you have thousands of internally displaced persons; and also in the Blue Nile State, bordering Ethiopia. Thousands of people have been affected in this area by the floods,? she says.

While flooding during the rainy season is not unusual, the rains have been extra heavy so far this year.

?Yesterday (Thursday), UNHCR distributed 3,000 blankets and 1500 sleeping mats to the local community in Wad Sharife town, which is located about 350 kilometers away from the capital, Khartoum. So, these people basically have seen their houses partly washed away. And they?ve been living for the past days in the open,? Caux says.

Most of the aid being supplied by the UNHCR and other agencies and NGOs is not going to refugees in camps. Caux says, ?The refugee camps have not been affected directly. It?s really the surrounding areas, the villages near the camps. In Wad Sharife town in Kassala State, bordering Eritrea, you have 7,000 villagers who have been forced to leave their houses because the Al Gash River overflowed because of the rains. Of course, our mandate is first to assist refugees. But in that case we are collaborating with other UN agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations, to assist these thousands of people.?

A joint emergency assessment is also planned for the flooded areas. ?On Sunday?all of these agencies are taking part in a joint emergency assessment by air basically to map the extent of the damage in the east and along the Blue Nile River. I think it?s important to really be able to see what are the damages caused by the floods to better prepare for quick assistance to the people there,? she says.