Months after opening, Alganaa refugee camp in Sudan’s White Nile State has been submerged by flood waters, leaving 35,000 South Sudanese refugees in need of urgent assistance.

South Sudanese refugee Nyawiga Toch fled her home with her husband and five children in May this year, after heavy rains destroyed their crops and home.

“We were left homeless and hungry,” she says.

Nyawiga’s family was among tens of thousands of South Sudanese who fled across the border due to flooding, lack of food and insecurity.

Alganaa refugee camp was opened by UNHCR and Sudan’s Commission for Refugees (COR) in February of this year, becoming the tenth camp in White Nile state, which currently hosts over 280,000 South Sudanese refugees.

In Alganaa, Nyawiga and her family set up their new home just before the rainy season came in July.

Only a month ago the camp was bustling with life, but today, the small mud and papyrus houses that neatly crisscrossed its expanse and the shops that lined its boundaries no longer exist. The only remaining structures are three shops and some containers that were to be used as registration offices by UNHCR.

South Sudanese refugee Nyawiga Toch points to the location where her house stood before Alganaa camp flooded. She and her family are living in a communal shelter with other refugees as they wait to be relocated to another site.
© UNHCR/Sylvia Nabanoba

"Then, one day we woke up to find water flowing into the camp. It increased gradually, surrounding our houses, until we realised that we could no longer stay there"

A family displaced by the floods in Alganaa camp salvage what they can of their belongings. © UNHCR/Vanessa Zola

“At first, the water would dry up in a few days after the rain. Then, one day we woke up to find water flowing into the camp. It increased gradually, surrounding our houses, until we realised that we could no longer stay there,” Nyawiga explains.

“We had a new home. We had re-established ourselves. Now, once more, we have nothing,” she says sadly.

Availability of suitable land remains a challenge to finding refugees a more permanent home, further compounded by the large number of people who keep arriving in the country. In the meantime, UNHCR is providing them with relief, including sleeping mats, kitchen sets and jerry cans.

The local Sudanese community that offered the land where Alganaa camp was established were not spared from the flooding.

Hussein Albashar, 35, grew up in a house close to the destroyed camp.

“I was born in this village and have lived here with my family ever since. Our house always withstood the rains until this year,” he says.

His family, including his elderly parents, now live in a temporary shelter provided by UNHCR. Unlike many of the other affected families, he decided to stay close to his old house, determined to rebuild it as soon as possible.

“I can’t leave the place I have always called home. I only hope next year’s rains will not be as bad as this,” he says.

“I only hope next year’s rains will not be as bad as this.”

Floods have displaced over 314,000 people across Sudan this year and resulted in loss of lives, homes, crops and livestock, according to the UN.

“Although it rains every year, the impact is usually not this destructive,” says the Head of UNHCR’s office in White Nile State, Kofi Dwomo.

Neighbouring South Sudan, where the majority of the refugees in Sudan come from, is also experiencing the worst flooding the country has seen in decades

The floods which engulfed Alganaa flowed into Sudan following heavy rains in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State.

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that heavy rainfall will only get worse in South Sudan and the wider region if global temperatures continue to rise.

Kofi says what happened in Alganaa is “a clear sign that changes in climatic patterns and environmental conservation need to be taken more into account” and urges the authorities, civil society and local communities to continue collaborating on actions to avert future catastrophes.

While land here is generally flood-prone due to the mostly flat terrain, Kofi says improving drainage systems and constructing dykes has proved effective in reducing flooding in other camps

UNHCR provides relief, including non-food items such as plastic sheets, blankets, kitchen sets and jerrycans, for people displaced by flooding in White Nile State in September 2021.
© UNHCR/Vanessa Zola

Alganaa refugee camp in Sudan’s White Nile State was submerged by floodwaters in September 2021, leaving some 30,000 South Sudanese refugees in urgent need of assistance. © UNHCR/Sylvia Nabanoba

UNHCR also runs a reforestation program in White Nile in partnership with Sudan’s Forests National Corporation.

Tree nurseries are producing thousands of seedlings each year which refugees and locals plant around camps and in designated forest areas.

“Reforestation is crucial as it restores the forest cover in areas where trees have been cut down for firewood and for shelter materials,” explains Kofi.

There is still hope that Alganaa can be salvaged, depending on the findings of a technical assessment. 

Nyawiga wishes only to find a place where she and her family can finally settle.

“I just want a home for my family where we can be safe,” she says.

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