Over 275,000 people in Somalia have been displaced by heavy rains in October, bringing the number to 575,000 since January following devastating flodds. Insecurity in many regions is making access for humanitarians virtually impossible according to new estimates from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the crisis in rural areas is causing migration to urban areas.
The NRC estimates that as many as 2 million people could be affected by the end of this year and that the refugee situation will continue into 2020.
This situation has recently been impacted by persistent rain followed by severe flooding. More extreme weather is predicted. The area of Baladweeyne has been hardest hit with camps and makeshift homes washed away.
The region's extreme weather is associated with an unusually strong Indian Ocean Dipole, the Indian Ocean’s equivalent of the Pacific Ocean-based El Nino climate phenomenon, according to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
NRC has called for an urgent humanitarian response. “Floods have destroyed more than three quarters of Baladweeyne and submerged many surrounding villages. These are extremely poor parts of Somalia, where there is now no electricity and no safe drinking water,” said Victor Moses, Country Director for NRC in Somalia.
Baladweeyne is an economic hub for Central Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland and depends on agricultural products like bananas, oranges and mangoes. The heavy to moderate rains have devastated agricultural lands and livestock has also been lost. NRC is calling for immediate response to help the region to survive in the short term and to recover in the longer term.
“Food reserves have been destroyed, food markets are under threat and displaced people, particularly children, mothers and the elderly are at a high risk of hunger and illness. Water-borne diseases such as cholera could erupt and spread quickly. Stagnant waters are a breeding ground for mosquitoes and could result in a malaria outbreak,” added Moses.
The Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS) also fears the floods could trigger deadly outbreaks of malaria, diarrhea, and other infectious diseases.
“These floods have already cost lives and our concern is that another fatal disaster is on its way,” said Abdi Abdullahi who leads SRCS operations in Beledweyne. “Thousands are living in the open and outbreaks of disease can easily take hold. The main hospital in the area is flooded and many are cut-off from our clinic.”
The UN has requested $1.08 Billion USD for humanitarian programs in Somalia in 2019. This is one of the largest crises in the world yet only 62 per cent of the appeal is funded and the UN suggests that it is unlikely that the target will be met by the end of the year.