7 June 2018

Somalia: 'Always Looking At The Sky': Life Amidst Somalia's Flood Waters

Photo: PHOTOESSAY: 'Always Looking At The Sky'

Journalist and photographer Christina Goldbaum spent a week visiting Baidoa, where flash floods upended temporary settlements, and Belet Weyne on the Shabelle River, where many buildings and settlements were submerged under nearly a metre of water when…

After enduring a year of drought and then the heaviest rainfall in over three decades, more than 750,000 Somalis must now figure out how to secure food and shelter and deal with emerging health risks. Last month, Somalia's government and the UN appealed for $80 million to help people affected by flooding in the south and centre of the country.

Journalist and photographer Christina Goldbaum recently spent a week visiting Baidoa, where flash floods upended temporary settlements, and Belet Weyne, where the Shabelle River burst its banks, plunging the town under nearly a metre of water.

At least 300 people have been killed by flooding across East Africa and the Horn this year, with Somalia, Kenya, and Rwanda particularly hard hit. In Somalia, more than 200,000 people have been displaced from their homes – many of which were makeshift shelters intended to offer short-term respite from the drought.

Here are some of their stories as they wait to return home, to land that has been nourished by the rains but often remains unwelcoming, under the control of al-Shabab militants. As humanitarian organisations redirect already scant resources to people coping with the aftermath of floods, most families in Baidoa are simply waiting to see what the clouds bring.

As one woman explained: "I'm keeping my eyes open and always looking at the sky."

Christina Goldbaum is a freelance journalist based in Mogadishu.

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