Dutch Plans to Solve Flood Issues at Bentiu Refugee Camp, South Sudan

Dutch flood prevention experts are working on plans to alleviate flooding in the Bentiu refugee camp in South Sudan.

The camp is notoriously flood prone. It is home to around 50,000 refugees escaping the violence of the civil war. The compound is around 70 hectares and is situated on low-lying ground that becomes a swamp during the rainy season, causing already low living standards to worsen. We have written about flooding in the camp several times. Last year the camp was under water for several weeks during June and July, and once more during August.

Following trade and development minister Lilianne Ploumen’s visit to South Sudan last autumn, a team of hydraulic engineers – led by the consultancy firm Grontmij – has drawn up a plan to improve the situation.

In the 2014 rainy season the entire camp flooded, including the toilets, schools and hospital. “Despite the efforts of aid workers, UN staff and the refugees themselves to make the best of the situation, conditions were terrible,” said Ms Ploumen. “That’s why we sent a water expert to Bentiu to assess short- and long-term needs.”

Flood Alleviation Plans

The result is a new plan to renovate the existing camp and add an extension. To ensure adequate drainage, a dike will encircle the camp, ditches and canals will be dug and large-scale pumps will be installed.

According to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, every possible effort is being made to finish land reclamation efforts before the rainy season begins in May or June. It is a project of immense proportions, in a difficult location, in the middle of a war zone. The total cost amounts to some USD 20 million, with USD 5.4 million provided by the Netherlands. Other financial backers include the UN, the EU and Switzerland.

Dutch efforts focus on drawing up the technical plan and supervising its implementation. Most of the financial contribution will be used to cover the costs of installing the ditches, canals and pumps.

The project aims keep all the displaced persons at the camp – whose numbers continue to increase – and aid workers dry in the 2015 rainy season.

“This is not just about preventing flooding,”’ said the minister. “It’s also about reducing the risk of illnesses like diarrhoea and cholera. Living conditions will still be tough, but they will be improved.”

‘What we’re doing in Bentiu is an excellent example of the added value of Dutch knowledge and expertise,’ said Ms Ploumen. “Most important of course, is what we’re doing to give the refugees better places to live. At the same time, we’re highlighting the major role Dutch businesses and knowledge institutions can play in emergency aid provision.”

Ethiopia Camps

In March this year the UN announced that it will begin relocating more than 50,000 South Sudanese refugees from flood-prone camps of Leitchuor and Nip Nip refugee camps in the Gambella region, western Ethiopia, to avoid flood risks posed by the start of the rainy season.

Floods in refugee camp at Bentiu, August 2014. Photo: UN Photo / Flickr
Floods in refugee camp at Bentiu, August 2014. Photo: UN Photo / Flickr
Bentiu camp, South Sudan. Photo: UN Photo / Flickr
Bentiu camp, South Sudan. Photo: UN Photo / Flickr
Bentiu camp in June 2014. Photo: MSF
Bentiu camp in June 2014. Photo: MSF
Bentiu refugee camp under water, August 2014. Image taken from video by CARE International
Bentiu refugee camp under water, August 2014. Image taken from video by CARE International