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Flash floods ravage Somalia, exposing gaps in disaster response, experts say

Monday June 12, 2023


Mogadishu (HOL) - Somalia is reeling from deadly flash and riverine flooding, with a staggering 468,000 people affected and 247,000 displaced as of June 6, according to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Experts argue that this natural disaster, which has emerged in the aftermath of five seasons of prolonged drought, underlines the urgent need for an improved famine and disaster warning system.

The most severely impacted district is Beletweyne and surrounding areas, where the flood water has started receding but leaves behind stagnant pools that hinder the return of displaced individuals and escalate the risk of waterborne diseases.

Despite the devastation, the rains have been a double-edged sword. They have replenished groundwater sources and revived vegetation, providing relief to pastoralists who had lost over 3.8 million livestock to the crippling drought in 2022. However, the report emphasizes that much more rainfall will be required to fully offset the impact of the extensive drought.
Humanitarian partners have responded to the crisis, reaching around 70% of those affected in Beletweyne with vital assistance. The Somalia Humanitarian Fund (SHF) has allocated $3 million to provide safe drinking water, sanitation assistance, non-food items, and health services to flood victims across Somalia.

Nonetheless, the situation is far from being under control. Heavy rainfall is likely to persist in parts of the northern regions, and light rain in several areas in central and southern regions. Additionally, more flooding is expected later this year due to the forecasted El Niño, suggesting further displacement, death, and disease are on the horizon.

These disastrous events underscore the necessity to improve and fine-tune famine and disaster warning systems. Despite their effectiveness in identifying regions in acute need of food aid during periods of drought, systems like the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) are currently less effective in evaluating the impacts of floods.

"Floods have nuanced effects on food systems, and it's essential to understand these impacts to direct aid appropriately," explains Sonali McDermid, an author of a recent study on the effects of floods on food security.

As Somalia battles the immediate and severe impacts of these floods, there's a broader call for enhancing flood-related food insecurity understanding across Africa.