Somali President Visits Flood-Hit Jowhar

The town of Jowhar is the capital of the Middle Shabelle region in southern Somalia, about 90km north of the capital, Mogadishu. It lies in the valley of the Shabelle River, where moderate to heavy rainfall has been causing flooding since the last week of October 2013. Heavy rainfall in Ethiopia has worsened the situation, increasing levels of the Shabelle River further. A 16 year old girl was reportedly drowned in late October while crossing a road near the flooded river, one of three fatalities in that month. 11 people lost their lives in the Jowhar district on 5 November, whilst another 11 000 in 31 villages have been affected by the floods. Roads in the area have also been affected, making it difficult tfor relief workers to reach the victims and bring in supplies.

In this conflict ridden country, floods have already struck the region several times this year. 7 children reportedly died, as many as 50,000 people were displaced, and 64,000 ha of farmland was affected by flooding in April and May 2013, whilst 22 people, including children, perished in flooding in June 2013. Flooding in September reportedly destroyed 10,000 ha of crops.

Thousands of families who fled the 2011 famine in southern Somalia settled in in the town of Jowhar, which is at the heart of a rich agricultural area. The repeated floods, however, have caused concern amongst farmers that the region may become food insecure and they have appealed to the government and the UN for immediate aid.

The Somali president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, along with a delegation of government ministers, officials of the Turkish Red Crescent and other local and overseas representatives visited Jowhar on 6 November 2013 to see for themselves the damage the town has sustained since the Shabelle River began flooding the town earlier this year, prompting closure of the major roads that lead to the city. The presidential delegation flew by UN helicopter to the town, which has been reinforced by AMISOM troops owing to recent clan-based clashes near the town.

In his address, the President appealed to Somalis, both locally and overseas, as well as other countries and organisations, to provide assistance. “I appeal to the Somali people here and in the diaspora to urgently support their brothers and sisters in Middle Shabelle,” the president said. “I pay tribute to the efforts of aid organizations and call on our partners in the international community to provide the maximum level of emergency assistance to communities afflicted by this disaster. At dark moments like this we must stand together and face the crisis as one nation.”

The visit came the day after the Somali Prime Minister, Abdi Farah Shirdon issued a similar appeal from Mogadishu. It is the second visit by the President to Middle Shabelle region since he was elected in 2012, and since the town was retaken from Al-Shabaab militia in December 2012.

In addition to flooding in the Middle Shabelle region, a flood warning for the next 7 day period has been issued for the northern and eastern parts of Somalia (Puntland and Somaliland) by the NOAA Climate Prediction Centre.

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Sources: Bar Kulan; Radio Ergo; Raxanreeb; Press TV; Midnimo; Somali Update; Harar24; All Africa; NOAA