Climate Change

After catastrophic drought for 6 years, flash floods in Somalia displace 200,000

Floods by ongoing Gu rains destructed Belet Weyne district, Hirshabelle State and Baardheere in Jubaland State, says UN

By Nandita Banerji
Published: Monday 15 May 2023
Vulnerable families living in Burdhubo district, Gedo in Somalia. Photo: Somalia Disaster Management Agency / Twitter

Riverine floods across Somalia have affected over 450,000 people and around 200,000 are suspected to have been displaced, according to a report by a United Nations body. In March this year, Somalia was one of the countries in the Horn of Africa entered into the sixth consecutive wet season with no rain

The first situation report on the floods was released by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) May 14, 2023. Around 22 people have been killed in 17 districts since mid-March, it said. 

Read more: Nearly 1.5 million children at risk of acute malnutrition as Somalia drought worsens

Around 200,000 people have been displaced due to flash flooding in central Somalia, a regional official told news agency AFP on May 13, as the Shabelle river burst its banks and submerged roads.

The drought in the region had greatly impacted people’s food and water security, livelihoods and health. At least 43,000 people died due to drought in Somalia in 2022. Around four million people in the region were suffering from acute food insecurityDown To Earth had reported earlier.  

Long-term droughts such as the one in the Horn of Africa region, especially in its southern parts like southern Somalia, southern Ethiopia and eastern Kenya, are 100 times more likely by climate change, according to a report by the World Weather Attribution (WWA) group.

Earlier this month, 135 people were killed and more than 9,000 left homeless after heavy rains lashed Rwanda, triggering floods and landslides. Over 400 people died due to torrential downpours, floods and landslides last week in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Despite the overwhelming flooding, it will require much more rainfall to alleviate the impact of the recent drought effectively, the UN report said. The ongoing rains are, however, expected to recharge surface water sources and enable vegetation to regenerate

Inhabitants of Beledweyne town in Hiran region were forced out of their homes on May 8-9 as heavy rainfall caused water levels to rise sharply, said an AFP report.

Read more: Horn of Africa likely to witness failed rainy season for sixth consecutive time: International agencies

“Some 200,000 people are now displaced due to the Shabelle river flash floods in Beledweyne town and the number may increase anytime. It is a preliminary figure now,” Ali Osman Hussein, deputy governor for social affairs in the Hiran region, told AFP

Floods caused by the ongoing Gu season rains (April, May and June) have left a trail of destruction, especially in Belet Weyne district, Hirshabelle State and Baardheere in Jubaland State, UN OCHA said. It has inundated homes and farmland, washed away livestock, temporarily closed schools and health facilities and damaged roads.

A forecast by Food and Agriculture Organization/Somalia Water and Land Information Management indicated that more moderate to heavy rainfall is expected over several areas between May 10 and 17.

The UN report said its partners were implementing a national flood preparedness and response plan but would need urgent funding to meet increasing needs. As of May 10, the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan is only 25 per cent funded.

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