When the waters rise: Managing flood risk in the MENA Region
15 December 2021
Floods are responsible for about two-thirds of the total human casualties incurred by natural disasters in the past 40 years. That’s why flood risk management is now part of disaster risk reduction strategies in many parts of the world. But not so much in the Middle East and North Africa—at least not yet. Here we explore how the UN is shoring up strategies to prevent floods or limit their impact in Sudan, Egypt, and Somalia.
Sudan: Massive floods hit refugees the hardest
“The floods came at night. The water was flowing into my shelter, and I could not sleep,” says Bak, an 80-year-old South Sudanese refugee who lives fifty meters from the Blue Nile. “The water kept flowing for seven days until it went down.”
During the floods of 2020, as in other cases of extreme weather, those hardest hit include vulnerable refugees and locals alike.
“I lost all my clothes and a sack of wheat,” Bak adds. Elsewhere across the country, many houses, water points and latrines were damaged or destroyed.
In response, the Government of Sudan joined with UNDP and the World Bank to report on the damage and make recommendations on how to reduce the impacts of future disasters.
The report urges the use of ‘Build Back Better’ principles.
Among those principles: Get local communities deeply involved when rebuilding, and the efforts will be more successful and long-lasting.
Egypt: Protecting the Nile Delta
“Fishermen and farmers were afraid of going to work,” says Aziz, “because the water levels rise and cover the shore during the storms.”
Aziz lives with his family in a humble home in a coastal city in the Nile Delta. The family is just a few of the 18 million people who are at risk.
“We realized that the rising water reaches us because there were no measures to protect our lives and properties,” said Aziz.
The Nile Delta is one of the world’s most vulnerable areas when it comes to sea-level rise, extreme weather conditions, and other factors worsened by climate change. That’s according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
To address these issues, the Egyptian government partnered with UNDP and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and lunched a new climate project.
So far, 10% of the dikes have been installed. They were put to the test in December 2020, when the country experienced a severe storm. The dikes blocked the sea surge on the shores of the Nile Delta.
The plan will also include establishing a system to monitor changes in sea levels and the impact of climate change on coastal erosion and shore stability.
Improving flood response in Somalia through remote sensing
Flood frequency has increased in Somalia over the past 20 years, resulting in the disruption of people’s livelihoods and the economy at large.
The Food and Agriculture Organization has developed a robust Early Warning System (EWS) that draws information from climate observers and river-gauging station. It then alerts emergency responders, the government, and vulnerable communities.
“The timely information has been crucial to all stakeholders to plan and implement flood risk mitigation programmes early on,” said Ugo Leonardi, a project advisor. “This has helped to save lives and livelihoods from potential shock.”
This story draws on previously published UN stories from Sudan (and here), Egypt, and Somalia. Compilation of stories produced with editorial support by Elie Baaklini, Development Coordination Office.