As ShelterBox’s disaster relief efforts continue in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, the charity has been helping communities in need in other disaster-affected countries, one being Sudan. ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) volunteer Sallie Buck (UK) spent two weeks in the African country as the team lead for the third team in responding to widespread flooding that has displaced thousands. Sallie describes the devastation and recounts the story of one particular young beneficiary Manal:
The previous two teams set up the process, building relationships with local partners and deciding on where was the greatest need. Our remit was to undertake further assessment of affected areas and to oversee the distribution of ShelterBox tents to the people who have been affected by the flash floods.
This was my 13th deployment so I have seen my fair share of floods, earthquakes, tsunami, landslides and conflict in various parts of the world. However I was shocked at the devastation. In the area of Al Kriab in Khartoum I was told that the waters reached three metres, covering houses and everything else in its wake. The people had to leave all their possessions behind and make for the highway that was built on higher ground. It took a long time for the waters to subside and when it did most of the houses had collapsed and most of their goods were lost.
Craters and debris
When I saw the area, more than a month after the flooding, the area resembled a battlefield. There were craters in the ground and lots of debris from fallen houses. The mud had dried and there were mounds of hard earth that needed to be cleared before even a tent could be set up.
People had returned to their community and wanted to start to rebuild but they are very poor and sometimes the choice between food and cement had to be made. Until we distributed tents to these people most were living in makeshift shelters made of plastic and bits of debris. Malaria, which is a normal risk in Sudan, was on the increase with all the standing water.
Helping her community
22-year-old Manal, a widow who had recently graduated from university with a degree in Engineering, is now living in a ShelterBox tent in Al-Kriab with her grandma, mother, sister and two brothers. She told me she studied at Cairo but was unemployed as apparently you need to know people to get a job as a female in Sudan. She had still been helping her community rather than doing nothing by volunteering with the Sudanese Red Crescent who had been helping us set up tents there.
Manal’s older brother supported the family but two months before the flooding he had surgery on his spine. At the time he could no longer walk or move let alone try and work. Their family home was destroyed except two walls that still stood. The tent has given the family a sense of security there as they now have somewhere permanent to rest until they manage to get some money to begin rebuilding. The kitchen has been set up with the two remaining walls and they are growing their own food.
We distributed 500 tents to families in similar situations to Manal’s in that area of Khartoum. Many women, in their brightly coloured clothes, begged us to give them ShelterBox tents. They were like the forgotten people.
ShelterBox has also been working with Plan International in a more remote southern area of Sudan, distributing a further 1,000 boxes to families displaced by the flooding. Thank you to everyone for helping us bring shelter and safety to these most needy communities.