In September of 2020, the worst flooding seen in a century inundated Sudan, causing widespread destruction and havoc. Over 60,000 homes were destroyed, and there have been 102 deaths and 46 injuries at the time of writing. The flooding was caused by continuous rainfall which pushed the level of the Blue Nile river to a record-breaking 17 meters and caused flooding in at least 16 Sudanese states.
Sudan experiences torrential rains and floods every rainy season, which usually begins in June and runs through to October. However, in recent years the floods have been getting more severe, which experts say is caused in large part by climate change. It is expected that Sudan will continue to face catastrophic flooding in the future for this reason.
The United Nations has warned that over 700,000 Sudanese people are in crisis because of the floods. The floodwaters have reportedly submerged entire villages, destroying farmsteads, and killing livestock which makes up the livelihoods of many Sudanese people. The World Food Program (WFP) has said half of Sudan’s population currently requires humanitarian assistance, a number that is certain to increase as the flood season reaches its peak.
Of particular concern to the WFP is the situation in Jonglei state, where the recent flooding has devastated crops. This is coming on top of an acute hunger crisis in Jonglei, where an estimated 1.4 million people are suffering from acute and severe hunger. This is in addition to over 300,000 children in the region under 5 who are believed to be acutely malnourished.
These floods come at a very sensitive time for Sudan, which is amid a delicate political transition. Omar al Bashir, the long-time leader of the country was toppled in a coup d’état amidst widespread protests in 2019. The country is currently led by the Sovereign Council of Sudan (SCS) which is made up of 5 civilians chosen by the Forces of Freedom and Change alliance and 5 military representatives chosen by the Transitional Military Council. The SCS is meant to rule for 39 months starting 20 August 2019 to allow for a peaceful transition to democracy.
Sudan is also attempting to implement a peace agreement that would end over 17 years of war. The war in Darfur between the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) and the Sudanese army (SAF) has resulted in over 300,000 deaths and the displacement of up to 3 million people. A comprehensive peace agreement was signed in Juba, South Sudan on August 31st, and September 3rd of this year, however, the rebel factions led by Abdul Wahid al-Nur and Abdelaziz al-Hilu refused to be apart of the agreement.
Another peace deal was signed on October 3rd of this year by the Sudanese government, the SRF, and associated rebel groups SPLM–N led by Malik Agar and SLM led by Minni Minnawi, with the noted absence of both al-Nur and al-Hilu. It is possible al-Nur and al-Hilu could use the floods and resulting devastation to stir up anti-government sentiment and destabilize the peace process.
The flooding will also add further urgency to the ongoing negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Ethiopia started to fill the new reservoir behind the dam upstream of the Blue Nile in July. It is expected that the GERD will help Sudan control floods in the future. However, Ethiopia Sudan, and Egypt are currently deadlocked in negotiations over the dam’s future, with Egypt claiming the dam could lead to water shortages for its citizens. The flooding could cause Sudan to put more pressure on Egypt to come to an agreement.