Submitted by Marina Schröder-Heidtmann
4 Jul 2022

Ready, steady, go: forecast-based financing in Sudan

After working in the Philippines on anticipatory action, Maya Manocsoc has been the German Red Cross’s project coordinator in Sudan since the beginning of 2022. She supports the Sudanese Red Crescent Society in introducing forecast-based financing in the country, through a project exclusively funded by the Deutsche Bank Stiftung. The aim is to protect lives and livelihoods in the event of imminent flooding – and before the river water overflows its banks.

Floods: a major natural hazard

Many people imagine dry desert climates and sparse landscapes when they think of Sudan. But that´s only part of the reality. In Africa’s third-largest country – which has a Red Sea coastline, as well as major rivers like the Nile – floods occur regularly. “Between 2010 and 2020, 12 of 14 hydrological and meteorological disasters in Sudan were associated with flooding, with up to 875,000 affected people at a time,” says Maya Manocsoc. “And with climate change, the threat is increasing”.

Early action on floods

As GRC project coordinator, Maya – who is a social scientist and an expert on water resources management, as well as natural hazards research – has been keeping a close eye on floods, flash floods and similar hazards since January 2022. This is when she began supporting the Sudanese Red Crescent Society in introducing forecast-based financing – a form of anticipatory humanitarian assistance. “With the help of meteorological experts, we identify threshold values, or ‘triggers’, for example a critical amount of rainfall, which indicate that flooding is imminent in an area in a certain period of time,” she explains. “If these triggers are reached in the future, the Sudanese Red Crescent Society can initiate early actions before the peak of flooding.” To ensure that the early actions really meet the needs of those at risk, the people in high-risk areas are consulted in advance and involved in the development of the early actions.

Floods threaten livelihoods

Again and again, floods have extensive consequences for people in Sudan, as Maya summarizes: “In addition to injuries and deaths, floods destroy fields and crops – and with them crops such as sorghum, sesame, millet and vegetables. Farmers lose livestock in the waters – goats, sheep and cattle – or equipment and pumps essential for cultivation. This can acutely threaten the livelihoods of those affected. The contamination of water sources can lead to an increase in communicable diseases, while the destruction of houses, latrines and critical infrastructure, such as bridges, causes equally severe impacts and service disruptions. If the losses are too substantial, people are repeatedly forced to leave their homes to find a future in other areas of Sudan.”

One of many challenges

Even with these severe consequences, floods are only one of many challenges for people in Sudan. Life here is marked by poverty, conflict and political instability. Across the country, 14.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Among these, women and children are particularly vulnerable, as well as internally displaced persons, refugees and returnees. “During the floods in 2020, more than half of the 830,000 people affected were children,” says Maya.

Confidence for the future

It would be difficult for these vulnerable population groups to cope with additional challenges posed by future floods. Therefore, there is a lot of hope attached to the German Red Cross project. And Maya is optimistic: “In preparation of the project, a feasibility study was conducted to see if it makes sense to apply forecast-based financing in Sudan. This produced good results.”

For example, the Sudanese Red Crescent Society has a lot of experience with floods, which are already considered a ‘strategic priority’ for the German Red Cross’s sister organization – a good basis on which to build the project. “There is also existing cooperation with the weather service, which we are now expanding,” she reports. “Our partners here are very interested and motivated. I am looking forward to the next three years as we establish the anticipatory action mechanism in Sudan. We hope to make humanitarian assistance more proactive and sensitive to the needs of the communities we serve.”