Displaced by conflict and floods: Zubeida’s story
UNICEF helps affected communities impacted by floods
“I stood there watching what the rain we had prayed for had done,” recollects Zubeida Hassan, a displaced mother of three, from Khartoum. “The sound of the water gushing through the streets and into buildings was deafening.”
“I saw the water wipe away homes,” she continues, remembering the sad moments she and her family experienced, following the September floods in River Nile state where her family had sought refuge after fleeing conflict five months ago.
The small house where she and her family once lived was one of the houses destroyed. The pit latrine and small farm where she grew some vegetables are no more.
Like Zubeida, many people left their homes in the middle of the night when water submerged their homes seeking safety in neighboring villages.
She has since sought shelter at a safer place in Northern Salama, a neighbouring village but together with her family, they continue to endure the impact of the conflict and this recent disaster – a compounding mix that is further exacerbating the situation of her children and many others affected.
In River Nile state, three out of seven localities have suffered severe flooding after heavy rains and bursting of riverbanks during the month of September. Families from over 5,000 households (around 30,288 people, including 12,200 children) remain distraught after their homes were sept away by the bursting water. Farmland, livestock, water infrastructure, sanitation facilities, public health facilities, schools, all are destroyed. Several families in the affected areas have been cut off after roads were declared inaccessible. Local authorities have confirmed deaths and injuries following a rapid needs assessment.
Estimates from the International Organization of Migration Displacement Tracking Matrix have confirmed over 500,000 internally displaced persons (IDPS) affected by the flash floods, in River Nile state alone. Too many families who fled the fighting, and left everything behind are again being confronted by loss and destruction further challenging their resilience.
Rebuilding lives after the devastating floods
As Zubeida struggles to rebuild all that she has lost in the past few months, her children are the most affected.
“My children have developed cough, flue and fever,” she shares.
But her one-year-old Randa is most at risk. She is admitted at Alnubawiyaah health centre for lifesaving treatment. Randa was too weak to cry when she first arrived. Tests have confirmed she is suffering from malaria and is severely malnourished. She only weighs 5.5 kilograms, is behind on all the growth milestones and her mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) measurements are in the red zone.
Zubeida’s family is among millions of people that have been pushed out of their homes due to the April conflict in Sudan. With little or nothing to eat and property left behind, hardly surviving through a complex and protracted crisis, these vulnerable families are now at risk of further flooding and its impact as the rains continue.
Mariam Ali, a mother with a disability is still in disbelief. “I watched our property being carried away. I was left with nothing at all,” she recounts how the floods caused her psychological trauma.
“I was so shaken, I was trembling so much, I had a terrible headache. We spent the night in the cold.” Sadly, it is getting worse every day,” Mariam recounts.
UNICEF quickly responds
Through a multi-sectoral emergency response, with thanks to UNICEF and partners including Save the Children, State Ministry of Health, Sate Water Cooperation and Social Welfare, the integrated community mobilizers network (CMN) has reached affected people with key lifesaving messages including health and hygiene promotion focusing on prevention and management of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) related diseases, malaria, and prevention of malnutrition. Affected vulnerable populations also received essential hygiene supplies including soap and water purification tablets to prevent waterborne diseases.
This complements UNICEF’s ongoing support to conflict displacement, ensuring that water quality from the water plant is retained, that emergency latrines are rehabilitated, that psychosocial support is delivered through community based mental health, that outpatient therapeutic feeding programmes are strengthened to benefit children, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and that long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) are distributed to protect families from malaria.
“I have understood the importance of washing hands very well. I always wash my hands at all critical times of handwashing,” Mariam shared. Today she volunteers on the recently initiated WASH committee and is spreading the word on using latrines and hand washing. As a role model, she has installed a tippy tap near her latrine to support regular handwashing with clean water and soap.
UNICEF has also supported with medical and nutrition supplies in health facilities including Alnubawiyaah health centre where Randa is admitted. Since arrival, Randa was initiated on therapeutic treatment where she received nutrition care and food including ready-to-use-therapeutic food (RUTF), a highly nutritious peanut paste rich in minerals and vitamins for treatment of malnourished children.
Mum Zubeida is hopeful that Randa will get back on her feet very soon. “Her weight has increased, and she has much more energy,” she confirms with a smile.
As Randa transitions into the outpatient therapeutic programme at the health facility, Zubeida receives packets of RUTF to support her complete recovery from home.
While the rains continue, UNICEF and partners are staying and responding to the urgent needs of children and their families affected by the floods.