Monday May 22, 2023
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Hirshabelle State Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management have called for urgent assistance to help communities affected by flooding in the town of Belet Weyne in Hirsahbelle State, Somalia. The floods, which began in early May, are estimated to have affected over 200,000 people and around 79% of the town has flooded, according to FAO’s Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) unit. As well as providing flood reports and analysis for humanitarian actors and early warning messages to affected communities through its ‘Digniin’ early warning system, FAO is scaling up emergency cash transfers to affected families and supporting preparedness actions. Districts downstream including Bulo Burto, Jalalaqsi and Jowhar still face moderate to high flood risk warnings.
“We’re witnessing the Shabelle river’s worst flooding event in the last thirty years, the situation for many displaced families is very precarious right now,” said Ezana Kassa, FAO’s Head of Programme in Somalia. According to the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, over 200,000 people have been displaced from their homes and need immediate food, water, shelter, and other lifesaving assistance. “Livelihoods have been destroyed and the risk of water borne diseases are on the rise,” said Kassa. It’s an extra blow for local farmers who say this season’s harvest was looking more promising than during the last three years of drought.
“We are calling on the international community to urgently provide assistance to the people of Belet Weyne and flood affected regions,” said Minister Asha Khalif Mohamed, of the Hirshabelle State Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, the government agency leading the flood response. She said that the government had already provided emergency food and supplies to affected communities, as well as leading the flood response coordination on the ground. “We need to be ready to bring in what people need as soon as flood waters recede, prevent disease outbreaks and also help people get back on their feet through livelihood interventions,” she said.
FAO has a recent history of flood interventions in Belet Weyne and surrounding areas. Early reports show that flood works implemented by FAO in 2022 with the support of United Kingdom, the World Bank and the Italian Government kept flood levels at bay for weeks longer than in previous years. However, the worst flooding since at least 1991 saw flood waters overflow the high-water mark. Other interventions continue to hold back flood waters, preventing an even greater disaster.
These historic floods are the latest in a series of natural disasters to hit Somalia in recent years, an increasing trend caused in part by global climate change. In 2021-22, the country was hit by a devastating drought that left the country teetering on the edge of famine and 6.6 million people acutely food insecure in its wake. It’s also a reminder of the vulnerability of Somalia to climate change. The country is already one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change, and the most reliable scientific modelling shows that climate related shocks will only increase in frequency into the future.
In addition to immediate support for affected populations, FAO is calling for scaled up investments in longer term solutions including more robust flood management initiatives to mitigate the impact of climate shocks on vulnerable communities’ cope and safeguard their food security into the future.