Introducing flood-resilience technologies ahead of Sudan’s rainy season

August 17, 2021

  • In 2020, Sudan was hit by some of the worst flooding in decades. Sennar and Kassla states were particularly impacted, with almost 21,000 houses destroyed or damaged.
  • Ahead of 2021’s rainy season, UNDP Sudan is trialing mechanized production of brick-like stabilized soil blocks (SSBs) to easily raise housing foundations above usual flood levels, and support faster rebuilding. Construction of demonstration ‘flood-resilient’ homes is also underway.
  • Rehabilitation of flood protection embankments and river spurs is also underway in Kassala Town, along with upgrades to the Flood Early Warning Centre and monitoring stations.

2020’s flooding destroyed almost 80,000 homes in Sudan, impacting hundreds of thousands of lives. With essential water sources like the Blue and White Nile crossing much of the country, flood prevention, mitigation and improved disaster management is essential – as people will continue to live, work and farm in flood-prone areas.

With Sudan set to experience heavy rains again, UNDP has been working to improve flood resilience in at-risk areas, and partnering with UN-Habitat to highlight the potential of easy, cheaper, and practical machine-produced Stabilised Soil Blocks (SSBs).

Read more: Investing in flood-prevention infrastructure in Kassala Town

Traditional ‘baked’ brickmaking techniques are a major source of construction material in rural areas in Sudan, but can be costly and require a significant amount of environmentally unfriendly firewood. SSBs utilize a type of soil abundant in the region and have no environmental impact.

At a recent training session in Sennar for community members, builders and government officials, UNDP, UN-Habitat and the State Ministry of Infrastructure and Urban Development, demonstrated the rapid production ability of SSB-creating equipment, and the use of the blocks in flood resilient construction.

Easier and faster to produce, SSBs allow for rapid lifting of housing foundations in flood-prone areas and facilitates faster reconstruction – with a number of flood-resilient demonstration homes under construction in Sennar, using SSBs for foundations to highlight their effectiveness.

“Investing in these kinds of solutions provides practical help for communities ahead of and after flooding, and creates employment opportunities through the use and production of soil stabilized blocks, and soil mining,” says UNDP Community Infrastructure and Housing Expert Lancelot Ayo Lake. “Such opportunities are essential in a post-disaster situation.”

“Additionally, with climate change threats increasing, reinforcing community stability to protect against future flooding is critical, particularly in areas impacted by conflict.”

SSBs are a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to traditional burned bricks. Production requires substantially less water, reduces production costs by over 18 percent, and requires no firewood – mitigating potential tensions between displaced and local communities around deforestation or resource scarcity.

Additionally, SSBs have a successful track record in Sudan, having been introduced by UN-Habitat in 2010 to reconstruct homes, schools and other community infrastructure for 300,000 displaced families in Darfur and Khartoum.

Read more: Investing in flood-prevention infrastructure in Kassala Town

Simultaneously, UNDP is investing in flood protection for Kassala Town – rehabilitating embankments and river spurs, and supporting the State’s Flood Early Warning Centre and monitoring stations along the Gash River, a location of major flooding in 2020.

While the SSB initiative is currently being trialed, if successful, it is anticipated to expand as part of UNDP’s wider stabilization efforts nationwide, improving the disaster resilience of flood-threatened and displaced communities.

These efforts form part of UNDP’s support for flood and crisis response in Sudan’s Eastern areas, with more than USD 2.0m of support provided to date.

Investing in flood-prevention infrastructure in Kassala Town

Additionally, broader flood preparedness efforts across Kassala and Sennar states underway include:

  • Disaster Risk Reduction: Strengthened the Flood Early Warning Centre in Kassala State, provided technical assistance to local officials on preparedness, and deployed a staff member to support the centre.
  • Disaster Risk Reduction: Rehabilitation underway of Gash River Monitoring Stations in Kassala for flood warning.
  • Civil Works: Rehabilitation is underway of 3 river spurs and embankments at Gash River, Kassala Town, to mitigate potential flood damage.

Bringing new risks of flash flooding and riverine floods. As the rainy season has already started, there is an urgent need to accelerate the reconstruction of Sennar State’s flood-damaged houses and protect against future damage.

Houses as well as the construction of 200 metres of flood protection embankment along the Singa River. This will generate income for trainees while protecting the communities from  future flooding.

“UNDP has invested over $280,000 in the construction training, materials and cash-for-work payments. We expect this project to be scaled up under our multi-sector approach for early recovery in Sudan, which will increase the national ability to respond to future crises,” says Ayo Lake.

Generating livelihood opportunities for flood-affected communities is part of UNDP’s early recovery response to the catastrophic flooding that hit the country last year.