Somalia – Flooding Displaces Thousands, Prompts Urgent Humanitarian Response

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported that over 460,000 people have been affected by devastating floods in Somalia since March this year. Most recently thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes, seeking refuge from the rising waters of the Shabelle River in Hirshabelle State.

The main bridge over the Shabelle River in Belet Weyne, Hirshabelle State, Somalia, May 2023: Photo: UNOCHA/Ayub Ahmed

Widespread flooding has affected areas of Somalia since heavy rainfall began in March 2023 signalling an early start of the Gu rainy season which usually ruins from April to June.

Officials from the Somali Disaster Management Agency (SoDMA) said that 20 people died and 2 were injured after flash floods in the district of Bardhere, situated on the Jubba River in the Jubaland State of Somalia on 24 March 2023.

Late March saw additional flooding in Hirshabelle, Galmudug, Puntland, and South West State, causing significant damage and displacement. In the South West State, flash floods in areas surrounding Baidoa affected over 40,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and vulnerable host communities from 23 March onwards.

The situation escalated further when heavy rainfall inundated parts of Mogadishu and the broader Banadir region on 28 April 2023. The Somali Disaster Management Agency (SoDMA) reported an unspecified number of fatalities, as well as the destruction of homes and the successful rescue and evacuation of several individuals. In response to the crisis, SoDMA promptly delivered food and clothing to hundreds of affected people. Subsequently, OCHA reported that 12,000 individuals were affected, with three fatalities.

In a report released on 14 May, OCHA revealed that the floods, which persisted from March to May, had ravaged shelters, latrines, farmland, and livestock. The education of thousands of children has suffered, with school buildings sustaining damage causing temporary closures. Preliminary estimates indicate that 460,470 people have been affected across the country, out of which nearly 219,000 have been displaced from their homes.

One area severely impacted by the flooding is Hirshabelle State. The Shabelle River breached its banks in late March at Beledweyne (also known as Beledweyn, Belet Weyne, and Beletweyne). Although water levels receded to some extent by mid-April, the river began to rise again in early May. As of 10 May, the river surpassed the “Bank Full” level at Beledweyne, leading to further flooding in the area.

Recent reports from UNOCHA indicate that thousands of people have been compelled to evacuate their homes, seeking safer ground. Around 250,000 individuals have been affected, with approximately 90% of the town currently submerged in water. Among those affected are protracted displaced families, who have sought refuge in areas outside the town. Regrettably, at least three deaths have been reported.

A flooded compound in Belet Weyne, Somalia, May 2023. Photo: UNOCHA/Ayub Ahmed

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