Somalia – Over 70,000 Displaced as Rivers Overflow

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that overflowing rivers in Somalia have forced over 70,000 people to relocate to higher ground.

Levels of the Shabelle river have increased after the onset of the Deyr rains about 3 weeks ago. The Deyr rains are seen in Somalia around this time each year, usually lasting from September to November or December.

By 22 October, the Shabelle river level was at 7.8 metres in Belet Weyne, above “High Flood Risk” level.

Almost half of Belet Weyne town has been affected by flooding from the river, along with farmland and surrounding villages, where tributaries of the Shabelle have overflowed. An estimated 72,000 people from Belet Weyne have moved to higher ground in Ceel Jaale highlands and surrounding areas.

“Riverine communities have been asked to vacate their homes to higher ground with immediate effect. The rains will continue in the next seven days and river levels will continue to rise, further worsening the flood situation,” UN OCHA said.

Flooding has also affected Jowhar, where river levels are near maximum, while two major breakages at Maandheere and Dhamasame (Jowhar) have reportedly resulted in flooding, according to the UN.

Recent heavy rainfall and high river levels in neighbouring areas of Ethiopia are likely to worsen the situation in Somalia. The UN said that “flows from the Shabelle with the flood water expected to reach Somalia in a day or two, thus increasing the risk of flooding in the region.”

Water levels are also high along the Juba River basin, with flooding reported in Doolow, Luuq and Bardheere. Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) reported on 22 October that 4 people lost their lives in Bardheere, and the floods
have displaced an estimated 750 households; further, 250 livestock drowned, and the waters damaged about 1,200 farms.

Deyr Rains in Somalia, 2019

In a report of late August, 2019, SWALIM said that the 2019 Deyr rainy season in Somalia is expected to be wetter than normal in most areas with warmer than usual temperatures across the whole country.

SWALIM said, “The rainfall forecast indicates 40% to 70% probability of above average rains in the south, central and most parts of the northern regions. This also includes the Ethiopian highlands which contribute significantly to both Juba and Shabelle river flow inside Somalia.”

File photo, illustration only. Floods in Somalia, May 2016. Photo copyright: Maryama Dayib

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