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Strong, Coordinated Response Required To Address Displacement Caused By Somalia Flooding

GENEVA, Switzerland

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) has reported (8 May statement by UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley) that excessive seasonal flooding, a crippled economy, impending desert locust swarms, and the spread of COVID-19 has threatened the safety and welfare of over 2.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in Somalia.

The Agency has requested a strong and coordinated response from UN Member States, the international community, national and local Somali authorities and humanitarian organisations and has appealed for $745 Million USD to meet global demands.

In Somalia, since the beginning of 2020, over 220,000 have become internally displaced due to natural and climate disasters and conflict. In the south and central parts of the country, seasonal rains have already displaced almost 90,000. If the current trend continues, the rains could be as bad as in 2019, that led to the displacement of over 400,000. The locust swarms threaten to destroy crop yields and cause widespread food shortages.

In March and April, armed operations against Al Shabab resumed in the Lower Shabelle and more than 50,000 people fled their homes. The conflict in this area included crossfire and mortar attacks into villages, roadside explosions, recruitment of children and gender-based violence. Communities were directly exposed to crossfire and mortar attacks in their villages, and roadside explosions while in flight. Elsewhere, fighting forced an estimated 40,000 people to flee their homes.

UNHCR sees COVID-19 as further risk. Most of the 2.6 million IDPs in Somalia live in overcrowded settlements and physical and social distancing is close to impossible. Water resources for drinking are greatly limited and handwashing is almost impossible. Despite Somalia having 928 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the general population, there has been only one confirmed case amongst the IDP population so far. But health resources are constrained.

COVID-19 has caused incomes to drop through job losses or reduction in working hours; refugees are the first to lose jobs. Food prices are rising and state support is minimal.

The Norwegian Refugee Council has added in a statement: “Our teams are meeting people whose farms have been inundated with water, small business owners that have had everything destroyed. The flooding compounds additional hardships created by Covid-19, our emergency response capacity is reduced and faces even more challenges than usual. We have been able to provide basic shelter, hygiene kits and food support to those living in affected areas but we are worried about their exposure to additional risk of disease – not only Covid-19, but waterborne diseases like cholera".