Torrential rainfall in Somalia has triggered deadly flash floods in 2 regions of the country in the last week. Despite the recent rainfall, many parts of the country, in particular northern areas, are suffering from the worst drought in years. UNICEF recently announced it is providing 50,000 households with access to safe water.
Flash Floods in Awdal Region
Heavy downpours brought flash floods to northwestern town of Dilla on 07 April, leaving six people dead and injuring nine others, Awdal Governor Mohamud Ali Saleban has confirmed.
The rain and flooding continued for hours, wreaking havoc in the town and inundating vast tracts of land. The torrential rain is a dramatic swing from the drought conditions that have affected the area where deaths from malnutrition have been reported since March this year.
“Really, a disaster has happened. So far we’ve recovered six bodies. The national army, police and local people joined forces to carry out rescue operations. Nine people were injured and 13 people climbed trees to escape the floods… We share mourning with the affected households, a father had survived his entire family.” said Mr. Saleban during an interview with Somali channel, Horn Cable TV.
“A torrential downpour flooded Dilla. The victims include three women and a child. Shops and hotels have been damaged, and 17 people were rescued,” Dilla District Commissioner Ibrahim Abdi Haji told Somali media.
The heavy rain in northwestern Somalia forced streams to quickly overflow, catching destitute residents unprepared for the intense intensity of floods.
The Somaliland government has initiated rescue and relief efforts in the aftermath of flooding, and a delegation has visited Dilla.
Ruling Kulmiye Party Chairman and candidate for Somaliland Presidency in 2017 election, Musse Biihi Abdi along with Public Works and Housing Minister Ali Hassan Mohamed and Somaliland Road Development Agency Director-General Hassan Ali Osman has been briefed on the magnitude of havoc wreaked by the torrential rains in Dilla.
Abdi tasked Public Works Ministry and Road Authority to take immediate steps including construction of flood mitigation structures and renovation of existing water infrastructure dilapidated by years of conflict.
Rainfall – Figures and Forecast
Heavy storms were reported in parts of Awdal and Wooqoyi Galbeed regions in Somaliland between 06 and 07 April 2016.
According to Somali Water and Land Information Management Network (SWALIM), which is managed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), say that Dilla recorded 86mm of rain between 06 and 07 April, Jufa 100mm and Kalabaydh 148mm.
On Friday 08 April, SWALIM said in its latest forecast that “Wet conditions with moderate to heavy rains are expected to persist in the next three days in most parts of Somaliland and Puntland as well as Ethiopian highlands.”
South-central regions, where the Shabelle River ran dry a few weeks ago, will record light to moderate rains within the same period.
Floods in Gedo Region
Local media are reporting further flooding has struck in the country, this time in the south west region of Gedo.
Heavy rain fell between 10 and 11 April, triggering flash floods that left 3 young children dead in Garbaharey town, the regional capital of Gedo region.
More recently however, the country has experienced severe drought conditions. Somalia has faced drought from October last year into this month, increasing the risk of famine and acute malnutrition, in particular for children. Many parts in the country, people have been struggling with a shortage of water for consumption.
In northern Somalia, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) are stepping up efforts to help communities cope with a severe drought exacerbated by El Niño conditions in Somaliland and Puntland.
“The communities have lived through four successive poor rainy seasons. Their ability to cope with the drought has been stretched to the limit,” said UNICEF Representative for Somalia, Steven Lauwerier. “Our concerted efforts are needed now to save the lives of tens of thousands of children and their families. Any delay from the international community will put their lives further at risk of hunger and disease.”
UNICEF says it is strengthening services at community level, deploying joint mobile health and nutrition teams to reach pastoral and other hard-to-reach groups. Malnourished children will receive an essential package of primary health care interventions, including emergency immunization. UNICEF is also providing 50,000 households with access to safe water via vouchers in the affected areas, and have repaired seven boreholes.
“The people of Somalia know all too well the dangers of drought, but a drought does not have to mean a disaster – the world must recognize that we can save lives if we act in time,” said WFP Country Director Laurent Bukera. “It is absolutely critical that we are able to sustain assistance to the people affected by this crisis, so we can stem the damage of undernutrition for mothers and children before it has lifelong consequences.”
Video report on the floods in Dilla, Awdal.
Reporting by Abdirashid M. Dahir, with further reporting and editing by Richard Davies.
About the author:
Abdirashid M. Dahir is a civil engineer, working in Somalia and Ethiopia. He recently wrote on controlling flooding from the Shabelle River.