From one extreme to another

Somalia is still reeling from the impact of persistent drought and now the heaviest rain in decades has led to floods

May 25, 2018 · 3 min read
The Shabelle river has overflown and inundated villages and farm land. Photo: WFP/Ismail Taxta

Since early April, heavy rainfall has marked the end of prolonged drought across much of the country and supported crop development and the regeneration of pasture and water resources. Rains are considered a blessing in Somalia but with the highest recorded rainfall in over thirty years, its a mixed blessing this year.

The country is now facing the challenges of displacement, disease, loss of livelihoods and floods associated with the April-June long rains (Gu season). The damage caused to infrastructure and cropland is compounding an already fragile humanitarian situation.

WFP is concerned about more than 700,000 people estimated to be in flood-hit areas of Somalia — nearly 300,000 of these have been displaced. Rivers have overflowed, inundating houses and washing away crops. Drainage in towns have been unable to cope with the sheer volume of rain and numerous areas have been cut off as roads are impassable.

Exacerbating the plight of many has been devastation caused by tropical cyclone Sagar which slammed into the Horn of Africa on 19 and 20 May, affecting the regions of Puntland and Somaliland.

WFP is distributing food by boat to areas cut off by flooding. Photo: WFP/Ismail Taxta
L: A man carry’s food supplies through a flooded street Belet Weyne. R: The UN Humanitarian Air Service, managed by WFP, has added a helicopter to its fleet so that aid workers can reach flood-affected areas not reachable by fixed-wing aircraft. Photos: WFP/Ismail Taxta

WFP has mobilised air and other assets for the flood response and already had teams on the ground in the worst-affected areas to provide a robust and timely response.

In early May, two boats were airlifted from the Somali capital Mogadishu to Dusa Mareb and delivered to Belet Weyne by road, to reach families cut off by floodwaters and ferry families from flooded areas to an evacuation centre. The boats are also delivering health supplies from UNICEF to villages cut off by water.

WFP has distributed high-energy biscuits to nearly 6,000 people across 11 villages and reached over 115,000 people with in-kind and cash-based assistance in Belet Weyne town. A two-month food ration has been distributed to 23,000 people in the city of Jowhar, capital of Middle Shabelle region.

WFP has distributed high energy biscuits as well as oil, pulses, cereals to households in need. Photos: WFP/Ismail Taxta

In cyclone-affected areas of the north WFP is providing life-saving assistance to nearly 30,000 people in three coastal districts in Puntland and assisting 34,000 vulnerable people in the worst-affected districts of Berbera, Lughaya and Zaylac.

In coming weeks, WFP will provide in-kind food and cash-based assistance to nearly 60,000 people in six flood-affected districts in Gedo and Lower Juba regions.

Somalis had been praying for rain but the arrival of torrential rains has mostly caused havoc. However there is hope that when the waters recede, the rainy season could offer an opportunity for agricultural and pastoral communities previously affected by drought, to reduce food insecurity.

Written by Amanda Lawrence-Brown

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

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