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Case study: Sudan Emergency Flood Reconstruction Program

Jonathan Brown and Mohamed Muhsin

After a disaster, aid is best coordinated by the recipient country itself. But aid coordination by an outside institution such as the World Bank may be warranted when the country lacks administrative capability, when the disaster is so big that government services are fully occupied for a long time with both relief and normal operations, or when issues of concern to the Government and donors cannot be resolved internally. This is not a matter of the Government giving up its sovereignty. Rather, it is similar to hiring consultants or an investment bank for their expertise in a particular or unusual situation. This kind of aid coordination is probably most effective in the preparation of the reconstruction program if it is clear that the program is that of the Government and not that of the lead donor or of the donors as a group. Aid coordination becomes less effective during implementation, largely because most donors insist on their own rules and procedures for procurement and disbursements.

In August and September of 1988, much of Sudan was devastated by heavy rains and flooding. At the Government’s request, the World Bank organized a multidonor, multisector mission to help the Government prepare a US$408 million reconstruction program to present to the donor community (see box on flood reconstruction funding). The Bank hosted a donors conference in November 1988 to fund the emergency lending program, then helped the Government and donors monitor program implementation. This is a review of the Bank’s experience in that aid coordination effort.


Sudan, with an area of 2.5 million square kilometers, is the largest country in Africa. Its population in 1988 was about 23 million - a heterogenous mix of ethnic groups and religions. Per capita GNP was US$330. Sudan has the natural resources and, more than other African countries, the trained manpower to develop a vibrant economy. But the economy has performed poorly most of the time since independence, and in the past several years has deteriorated at an alarming pace. The main reasons for this state of affairs are mistrust of the private sector and political instability - stemming from a prolonged civil war, poor economic policies, and a weak administration - reinforced periodically by adverse shocks from the weather and the international economy and by the influx of refugees from neighboring countries. By May 1986, when a coalition government assumed power after democratic elections, GDP had grown only 1 percent a year for a decade and per capita income and consumption had fallen well below the 1970s’ levels. In June 1989 the civilian authorities were replaced by a military government.

In August and September 1988, Sudan experienced two separate but related events. First, there were three weeks of unprecedented heavy rainfall, including a 200-millimeter rainstorm August 4-5 in the Khartoum region - more rain in one day than the average rainfall for an entire year. Then there was heavy flooding of the Nile and other rivers, including sheet flooding down wadis that had not seen water in living memory. These events devastated much of the population, particularly in Khartoum and the northern regions, where there was massive damage to agriculture, property, infrastructure, and social services. Some 200,000 homes were extensively damaged or completely destroyed by the floods and rains, which took days to dissipate, in flat areas with impermeable clay soils. About 2 million people were left homeless, more than 80 percent of the schools in the Khartoum area were damaged or destroyed, and farmers along the Nile and in irrigated areas lost substantial productive capacity. Because so much damage was done in so many sectors, and so little reliable data was available, no damage assessment was made, but the general consensus was that it was probably more than US$1 billion equivalent.

Emergency relief efforts began almost immediately after the heavy rains, with the help of the UNDRO/UNDP and the support of the international community and local and international nongovernment organizations (NGOs). Efforts to meet the flood victims’ immediate relief needs - for food, medicine, temporary shelter, and emergency medical relief to prevent epidemics - were successful and no widespread diseases were reported.

The multidonor mission

As it turned its attention from immediate relief to longer-term reconstruction, the Government asked the World Bank to lead a multidonor, multisector mission to help it assess reconstruction requirements, establish a reconstruction program, and coordinate donor reconstruction efforts. The Bank, in consultation with the Government, agreed on several steps. First the Bank mission (working with the Government) waited to outline the reconstruction program until emergency relief efforts were under control, to give highest priority to the Sudanese people’s immediate needs. Second, from Washington, the mission began to establish the framework for a multidonor effort to produce with the Government an Emergency Flood Reconstruction Program (EFRP). This effort involved a series of actions:

(a) Other donors were invited to join a multidonor mission to prepare the EFRP with the Government. A number of donors accepted, including the African Development Bank, the European Economic Community, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, IFAD, the IMF, Italy, Jordan, the United Kingdom, UNICEF, UNIDO, and WHO. The multidonor mission was also in touch with other international organizations (such as FAO and UNDRO) and with other countries (such as the Netherlands and Japan) which eventually helped fund the EFRP.

(b) Local and international consultants (with the financial support of the UNDP) were recruited to supplement the staff of the Bank and other donors and to provide special expertise to the Government and the mission. The United Kingdom also funded consultants to establish with Sudanese officials the nature of the flood and rain events and the probability of their recurring - to help in future disaster mitigation efforts.

(c) The mission determined that because of Sudan’s poor economic performance and weak administrative capabilities, the donors would respond more positively to requests for emergency reconstruction assistance if Sudan’s needs were assessed in detail and Sudan’s implementation capability thoroughly documented by sector. The mission decided to produce a detailed technical document, including equipment lists, which is not usually a priority in emergencies. The Government established special sectoral task forces to assess damage in the sectors served by their ministries, and the Bank and the Government agreed by telex on the kinds of information the donors would need and on a format for their presentation.

(d) Within the Bank, an ad hoc reconstruction advisory group of experts familiar with emergency projects was convened. The Bank named a division chief to lead the multidonor mission and Bank technical and program staff began meeting to coordinate their inputs so that the Government and the mission would be able to produce the EFRP document in the field. This meant agreeing on a common approach to report writing - on such things as the format, costing assumptions, and definitions - and ending up with an outline of the report. The mission was staffed with secretaries and portable computers so that with the help of the local UNDP office it would be able to produce its draft and final reports without imposing a burden on the Government. As for the mission’s organization, a core group of Bank staff - the mission leader, a lawyer, two consultants experienced in Bank, donor, and Sudanese procedures, and the Bank’s senior advisor on emergency lending - would work on the draft EFRP to be discussed with the Government. The core group would review general policy issues with the Government and would handle project implementation issues and disaster mitigation efforts. The Government and mission sector specialists would form sectoral groups to prepare and present their sectoral reconstruction programs to the core group after clearing them with Sudan’s sectoral ministers. Sector groups were established for agriculture, education, health, industry/construction, power, telecommunications, transportation, urban, and water supply. This decentralization of responsibility would allow the mission to cover the nine sectors in the EFRP yet maintain common approaches and standards through the work of the core group. The World Bank agreed that the draft EFRP would be produced in the field without being brought back to Washington for review, thereby accelerating the process and ensuring that the EFRP was a product of the mission and the Government rather than of the World Bank.

(e) It was important to get donor commitments to the EFRP quickly, so before the mission left Washington a donors’ meeting was scheduled for the end of November at the Bank’s Paris office. This put pressure on the Government, the mission, and the donors to produce a detailed document on which prospective donors could make funding decisions. The document would also identify areas in which existing projects with available funds could be reoriented to cover urgent reconstruction requirements - since donors might need some time to make new commitments even in an emergency situation.

Multidonor preparation of the EFRP

A number of sector specialists arrived in Sudan in late September to begin working with the Sudanese, who were already gathering reconstruction data by sector. The main mission - 50 people representing 13 donors - arrived in Sudan October 4. The mission, the donor ambassadors accredited to Sudan, and the Prime Minister and his cabinet met and clearly defined the next steps: preparation of the draft EFRP by the mission and Sudanese ministerial staff, Government review and approval of the EFRP, and submission of the EFRP to the November donors’ conference. So large an area was affected by the flood and rains, and data were so unreliable, that the EFRP was to focus on (1) assessing the damage to productive capacity and essential social services (rather than on economic losses, about which there was much debate), and (2) preparing a two-year reconstruction program that could be implemented and disbursed over a three-year period - given Sudan’s administrative capabilities. This represented a compromise between the Government, which wanted a larger EFRP for a longer period, and the donors, who thought that Sudan’s near-term implementation capability should determine how much funding could be absorbed, even in an emergency.

In the next two weeks, while the subsector groups prepared their parts of the EFRP for submission to the core group, the core group met often with the local donor community to brief them on progress and to solicit their views. Every evening several of the sector subgroups presented reports on their progress to the core group; those meetings were open to all members of the multidonor mission. The core group also undertook several field missions to understand more fully the sector specialists’ submissions. Several donors sent a number of sector specialists, while others were represented by only one or two staff members, so the briefings of the donor ambassadors and the nightly sector meetings allowed the donors to be fully informed about all aspects of the EFRP. Allowing for different viewpoints improved the quality and credibility of the draft EFRP and the donors’ commitment to it - because it was truly a product of the multidonor mission rather than of the World Bank.

Flood reconstruction funding

Jonathan Brown and Mohamed Muhsin

Sectoral funding was allocated as follows:


Local cost
($ millions)

Foreign cost
($ millions)

Total cost
($ millions)





Rural water
































Program coordination and flood prevention








Agriculture: $97.4 million to rehabilitate infrastructure, provide credit and essential inputs, reestablish nurseries to stock perennials, and expand locust and pest control programs.

Rural water: $24 million to replace damaged rural water facilities and install new water systems in rural areas in the northern region where inhabitants of traditionally dangerous villages have volunteered to resettle.

Education: $36.2 million to rebuild 100 destroyed primary schools, import materials for self-help reconstruction of damaged schools ($10 million), and assist higher education ($2 million).

Health: $38.6 million to control malaria and diarrheal diseases, restore drug supplies, and rebuild physical facilities and equipment for health units.

Industry/construction: $50.3 million to increase cement production in Sudan’s major factory (which did not meet demand before the floods for lack of spares and equipment) and $45 million to import building materials.

Power: $34.9 million for power reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Telecommunications: $34.4 million for reconstruction and rehabilitation of a telecommunications network that was in a deplorable state before the flood - to provide Khartoum, secondary towns, and some rural areas with minimum telecommunications service.

Transportation: $33.5 million for highways, $16.4 million of it for the Khartoum-Port Sudan Road.

Urban: Rehabilitation of infrastructure and services in Khartoum and a strategic plan for the city, in which services were minimal before the flood, and large areas unplanned.

Flood prevention: $500,000 to outline the requirements for setting up better data collection and a flood forecast system for the Nile. The EFRP was presented to the Prime Minister and his cabinet and so were three nonsector-specific issues about which the donors felt strongly: (1) equal treatment for southern refugees in Khartoum who had lost housing; (2) restoring a small amount of infrastructure that had been inadequate before the disaster to a higher standard; and (3) favoring more labor-intensive methods in some civil works, especially in urban areas (to create jobs), over the imports of heavy machinery favored by some Sudanese technicians. The Prime Minister resolved these issues and on October 25,1988, the Government formally cleared the EFRP for distribution to the donors in preparation for the donors’ conference. Soon thereafter the World Bank, in its coordinating role, established contact with the headquarters of several donors to clarify EFRP requirements.

Highways was the first subsector group to finish its work. Highways produced a detailed description of the damage to productive capacity and a program for reconstruction in that subsector. The other sector teams followed highways for basic format and standard of quality. The core group concentrated on implementation issues, a major donor concern. It was decided to use existing implementation units in government ministries and agencies, beefed up where necessary. NGOs participated in the relief effort, but the Government was reluctant to channel donor funds for rehabilitation through the NGOs - preferring that their efforts should be freestanding, outside the EFRP framework. The core group agreed with the Government on the following implementation procedures:

(a) The Government would continue its policy oversight of the reconstruction effort through the High Ministerial Committee for Rehabilitation (HMCR), chaired by the Prime Minister and composed of key ministers.

(b) A National Reconstruction Task Force (NRTF) with representatives from all implementing agencies would be created to ensure coordination of the multisectoral EFRP at the technical/agency level.

(c) A National Reconstruction Implementation Unit (NRIU) with a professional staff of Sudanese and expatriates would be established to service the NRTF and the HMCR and to help sectoral implementation units coordinate their work with donors and other government departments. The NRIU was to have access to the Prime Minister through the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, to expedite the resolution of problems in implementation. The Government promised to name - and subsequently named - a highly qualified Sudanese (the State Minister of Finance) to head the NRIU before the donors’ meeting.

The full draft EFRP was completed on October 17,1988 - within two weeks thanks to the preparatory work of the Sudanese and the full integration of all mission subsector groups with their Sudanese counterparts. The EFRP represented a two-year time-slice of a reconstruction effort amounting to US$407.5 million with a 70 percent foreign exchange component (US$285.4 million) in the agriculture, rural water, education, health, industry/construction, power, telecommunications, transportation, and urban sectors and in program coordination and flood warning.

The donors’ conference

A two-day donors’ conference was held at the World Bank’s Paris office on November 29,1988. It was clear from the donors’ reaction that the EFRP document had enabled them to see their contributions in a broad national and sectoral framework that, because of its detail, their technical experts could review in the month before the donors’ meeting. And having most of the donors represented on the multidonor mission had enormously increased their commitment to seeing the process through - at the very time that the donors were rethinking their normal development programs in Sudan because of the Government’s inability to make progress on a macroeconomic adjustment program and on negotiating a settlement of the civil war.

The main challenge of the donors’ conference was to make sure that the full EFRP was funded, because the donors had different sectoral interests, types of assistance, procurement arrangements, and time needed to begin disbursements. EFRP components were merged with available donor funds in two ways. First, subsectoral technical groups met so that bilateral donors could indicate their preferences and make commitments to specific program elements, including lists of major equipment and material. Second, the multilaterals - essentially the African Development Bank and the World Bank - agreed to fund those program elements not taken by the bilaterals. In this way, the main elements of the EFRP were funded - although having two or more donors in a sector increased the burden on sectoral implementation units, the NRIU, and the World Bank (which would assist with donor coordination during implementation). At the other donors’ request, it was agreed that the World Bank would fund the NRIU and would regularly keep the donor group advised of progress on implementation.

As a result of the Paris meeting, indications of donor financing amounted to about US$300 million - including the reallocation of funds from existing projects but excluding some promises of large private contributions from Middle Eastern countries. By and large, the bilaterals were able to make their funding available quickly. The World Bank’s US$75 million IDA credit was approved by its Board of Directors only in June 1989, largely because of the Government’s general instability. The African Development Bank’s US$32 million was approved in January 1990.

Implementation and lessons learned

The World Bank began helping the Government with implementation after the donors’ meeting, largely by exchanging information about donor pledges and procedures. The NRIU was staffed satisfactorily with high-level Sudanese, led by the State Minister of Finance. A 12-person World Bank mission visited Sudan in June 1989 to help with the startup of the Bank’s own $75 million credit - which covered part of the funding for the agriculture, education, health, telecommunications, and urban sectors as well as funding for EFRP coordination and an early warning system for floods. Five World Bank missions, often joined by other donors, visited Sudan between June 1989 and November 1990. Each mission was composed of three of the five members of the original core team plus other sector specialists involved in the first mission. At the beginning, during, and at the end of each supervision mission, meetings were held with the local donor representatives. The missions’ aide-memoire and World Bank telexes summarizing the status of all donor funds were shared with all the donor organizations involved in the EFRP.

The Bank and other donors tried to maintain the same staff on the supervision missions. Just as the original mission could not have been staffed without the financial support of other donors, particularly the UNDP, so the supervision effort benefited from UNDP assistance to finance consultants. The stability of donor personnel was particularly important as the change of government at the end of June 1989 meant that key ministers and high-level civil servants, including essential NRIU personnel, were replaced by Sudanese who needed time and guidance to implement the EFRP efficiently because many of them had not been involved in its preparation.

The implementation phase taught several lessons, some of them relevant to aid coordination generally:

(a) The World Bank can help coordinate aid, especially with quarterly missions to summarize progress and pinpoint key issues, but the Government must feel real ownership of the aid coordination process. At times the NRIU initiated visits to donors, but only irregularly. Often the donors have had to take the initiative to contact NRIU.

(b) Having so many donors, each with different procurement and disbursement procedures, inevitably causes frustration and slows down implementation, particularly when the government’s administration is weak. The Government rarely sends technical staff, who bear the brunt of procurement and disbursement work, to visit the donors to expedite matters. The NRIU has tried to help in this effort but there is no substitute for frequent, direct contact between donor agencies and the sector implementation units - particularly in Sudan, where telecommunications are unreliable.

(c) When it comes to implementation, each donor has its own procurement and disbursement procedures and reporting requirements, so donors are less likely to follow the technical advice of a lead donor than the donors were in the EFRP preparation mission. As a result, aid coordination becomes less effective in maintaining donor cooperation. But the donors want to be kept regularly informed of the EFRP’s progress by both the Government and the World Bank.

(d) The donor efforts that have been most successful in Sudan have been self-contained and have not depended on contributions from more than one or two other donors. Unfortunately this limits the size of a program as most EFRP components are too large for any single donor.