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Aid agencies warn of severe effects of El Nino in Somalia

Thursday October 8, 2015

People walk across a plain as heavy storm clouds gather overhead in Chesesoi village in Kenya.
Photographer: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images.

Aid agencies working in Somalia on Thursday warned that El Nino conditions are expected to severely hit the Horn of Africa nation during this year's September to December rainy season (Deyr rainfall).

The 30 agencies under the banner Somalia NGO Consortium said the effects of El Nino are likely to lead to a wetter than normal season with a very high risk of flooding in parts of the country.

"Thousands of people in Somalia are already feeling the effects of this super El Nino, seeing their crops fail, livestock stressed and the price of staple foods soar because of shortages," Oxfam's Somalia Country Director Enzo Vecchio said in a joint statement.

"Such extreme weather events are only going to increase as climate change ramps up. We are likely to see floods in the coming weeks which risk devastating communities reliant on food aid for survival and pushing many more into crisis," he said.

The organizations which included World Vision and Save the Children warned that the effects of the increased rains will further deteriorate an already desperate humanitarian situation in Somalia.

Between 500,000-900,000 people living alongside the Shabelle and Juba rivers are at risk of being affected by flooding, the statement said.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that this year's El Nino could mirror the 1997-98 weather patterns that left large parts of southern Somalia underwater and killed an estimated 2,000 people.

The agencies said the effects of the El Nino phenomenon could further aggravate the humanitarian crisis the country is currently facing by causing major population displacement, loss of lives, increased human rights risks, disruption and reduced access to basic goods and social services, destruction of means of livelihoods and shelter, food insecurity, increased malnutrition, contamination of the natural environment and hindrance to humanitarian access.

"There is a high likelihood of towns and villages being cut off from main supply routes, making it difficult for communities to access basic services and delivery of relief supplies," the agencies said.

According to the consortium, people living in semi-permanent or poorly constructed shelters, children, pregnant and lactating women, the elderly and people living with disabilities are most vulnerable to the effects of heavy flooding.

An El Nino Contingency Plan has been developed by the humanitarian community in consultation with authorities at Federal and Regional levels taking into account lessons learned and needs identified from previous responses to El Niño related emergencies in Somalia.

The Plan prepares for an effective, integrated and timely response when needed.

This, the agencies said, entails both preventive and assistance measures including early warning, pre-positioning of stocks and emergency assistance programs on food, nutrition, health, water, sanitation and hygiene, shelter, non-food items and protection in order to save lives and alleviate human suffering.

The main gaps and constraints to the effective delivery of response as identified by humanitarian actors in Somalia are access constraints and funding shortfalls, with the contingency plan requesting 30 million U.S. dollars to support preparedness and response.

The consortium said there are heightened risks of possible outbreaks of water-borne diseases and lack of clean water, as most of the shallow wells on which people depend on for clean water will be destroyed or contaminated. Most household food supplies could also be lost in the floods.


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