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"Sudan is still okay" is a phrase I grew up hearing as a Sudanese girl. It is a phrase that has a special place in the minds and hearts of Sudanese people, and it is said each time someone faces dire circumstances and the community surrounds the person in support. It is a thread that weaves hope and unity through a scattered nation.

I questioned the validity of the phrase when I recently witnessed the worst flood to hit Sudan since 1988. Despite the familiarity of the heavy rains during the fall season in Sudan, they reared their unfamiliar head to expose its ugly consequences and disastrous effects. Being far away from it all, in another continent, can never mask the pain I felt seeing images of homes destroyed, lives lost and shattered and children's hopes and dreams washed away. According to a report published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), since the beginning of August, more than 530,000 people have been affected by the floods, while at least 74,000 homes have been destroyed. There is a complete lack of proper infrastructure to drain the heavy rains. People literally have to swim across streets, whose features are completely lost, through the mud, and stagnant waters. Women carrying their children on their shoulders through shoulder high waters, holding on to remainders of hope for a better day for their children. Government officials stood idly watching the catastrophe unfold and worsen. No action.

"Who is the alternative?" is well marketed propaganda –– a facade at the forefront of the Sudanese government's greed for power. It’s a question that is echoed among those devoted to the idea that the Sudanese government, despite its almost three decades of failure in leadership, is better than anyone who can possibly take their places, affirming the "better the devil you know" adage. It was used to curb the rising unrest among the people, in an effort to delay the process of change. However, the recent floods in Sudan have not only exposed the poor infrastructure reflecting the well known failure of the government, but also the power of the people to come together, via Nafeer, to lead and help one another.

Nafeer is a word that has flourished among the cultures of Sudan to refer to the gathering of people to support those in need, forming the interconnected social bonds that continue to hold the Sudanese together up to this day. Historically, it originated in the context of battles when people rallied in readiness to fight, but today it rises up again in the context of community volunteerism in a whole new battle: providing relief to the victims of the floods. Nafeer is the name of a youth-led global campaign to gather support and provide relief for people who were affected by the flood. With thousands of volunteers, Nafeer has done all that the government had failed to do in responding to the floods. Whether it is providing health services in response to emerging diseases, or giving food and clothing to families, Nafeer’s work exemplifies the power of people leading and supporting each other. Doubting “the alternative” becomes as fragile as a mud house in the face of flood.

The August flood that has hit Sudan had disastrous effects, as thousands of lives and homes were lost. The survivors were alleviated by the unyielding, committed work of Nafeer volunteers. As the flood waters broke roads in half, separating travelers from destinations, citizens have become separated from the “question of the alternative.” With the mounting backlash against the government for their lack of appropriate response, the answer to the question is becoming clear with an emerging, committed volunteerism, and the leadership of Nafeer. There is a question that I keep asking myself, and I hope with all my heart that the people across Sudan are asking themselves: If this is what they can do when the streets are wet, imagine how far they will go when they are dry? I hope this question will be revisited with a renewed sense of social responsibility and an eye for a new Sudan, where equality and justice and peace take root.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital empowerment and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Topic Leadership

Take action! This post was submitted in response to Voices of Our Future 2013 Assignments: Op-Eds.

Comment on this Post



Once again, your voice and your vision for Sudan is coming through loud and clear. The citizens of Sudan are lucky to have you fighting hard for a better future.

Stay inspired and surround yourself by supportive people who believe in what you are doing and how far you will go!

All the best,


Dear Ana,

Your writing is very visual and compelling. This is a strong, excellent, informative piece, delivered in a passionate-but-reasonable tone. How perfect that Nafeer is youth-led and that its members are doing the work that the government lets slip through the cracks so blatantly. Our youth is the future, of course, so it stands to reason that these young people would rise up to help clean up their world. May they enjoy great success in this arena. Thank you, Ana, for the vivid pictures you paint with your words, which have broadened my own understanding of yet another part of the world, and will no doubt do the same for all who read your work. With Respect, Sarah

Sarah Whitten-Grigsby

Thank you for your piece Ana. You're writing, as others have expressed, is extremely moving and effectively depicts the importance of the issue and the extent to which the community was affected by the floods. Telling the story from an inside perspective was enlightening and inspiring.

Keep up the great work. You are providing a voice for those who otherwise would be overlooked.

Courtney Michelle Miller Digital Communications Strategist and Multimedia Producer

Dear Ana,

This is such a powerful piece of writing. You have beautifully linked the personal and political and offer a genuinely unique and grounded solution to the issue. Your strength is compelling. Your voice is clear.

I'm so impressed that you invoked the cultural tradition of 'Nafeer' to address the immediate and wider challenges facing Sudan. Local solutions are empowering.

Thank you Ana! I look forward to reading more of your writing.

With best wishes, Robyn

Founder & Principal Strategist, Social Change Collective

Yes dear. They have managed to do exceptional work to alleviate the harm despite the governments crackdown . sadly though some volunteers have been shot and killed in the recent protests. Thank you for checking in Zoe. Much lovexoxo

It is an outrage the that international news organizations are not prioritizing covering this. We need a paradigm shift in reporting and it starts with women and citizen journalist!

Thank you for reporting!

With Love and Respect,


Zoe Piliafas

Voices of Our Future Community Manager World Pulse