With millions of people displaced by the civil war in Syria, siting refugee camps in safe areas free of the risk of flash flooding is essential.

In January 2016, 300 tents were washed away by floods in Idleb, affecting 1,000 people during winter.

The Challenge

The civil war in Syria has brought death and destruction to the Syrian people, causing many to flee their homes. More than 4.8 million Syrians are refugees, and 6.5 million are displaced within Syria.

Organisations including the Regional Food Security Analysis Network (RFSAN), an NGO specialising in food security, are working to ensure that new camps and agricultural zones in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan are based in safe areas, away from potential flash flooding and other risks.

Our Solution

We created detailed flood models for the RFSAN which identify the risk of both fluvial flooding, where rivers burst their banks, and pluvial flooding, where ground becomes saturated from rainfall.

We modelled all the flood data at our Brighton offices, with some remote in-country help from RFSAN’s Jordan office. Parameters for intensity-duration-frequency equations were sourced from existing research, including academic journal articles and technical reports. This allowed us to overlay rain data onto topographical datasets.

We used satellite images and worked out parameters for infiltration (how well water soaks into the surfaces it falls onto) by analysing surfaces in the various regions – soil, rock, tarmac, etc. This too was added to the model.

Our flood maps gave indications of how much of an area would be flooded (potential flood extent), and flood depth. They also offered multiple return periods, defined by different amounts and types of rainfall.

The Outcomes

RFSAN will use these maps to help them develop more complex, overlaid maps, showing how vegetation, population and flood risks interact. We’ll cross-reference all the relevant data and use it to help reduce the suffering of displaced refugees across Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan.

“Natural hazards such as flooding not only threaten the safety of people but also life-sustaining factors such as access to food and livelihoods. In addition to helping our partners increase their coordination efficiency in aid delivery, Ambiental’s flood maps will complement efforts to improve the quality of information for better agricultural practices, systems, and policies.”


Craig von Hagen
RFSAN Information Coordinator

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