As much as 85% of the Somali city of Beledweyne is now submerged by flood water and around 250,000 people have been evacuated to higher ground, following weeks of heavy rains and flooding.
People in Somalia are suffering from climate extremes, as severe floods have now hit many areas that have been devastated by three years of Somalia’s worst drought in decades.
Mowlid Osman Mohamud, an Islamic Relief aid worker in Beledweyne says: “People are in a desperate situation. Almost the whole city is underwater and most of the population is now displaced and sheltering in camps that don’t have enough clean drinking water, shelter, food or healthcare. We’re increasingly concerned about outbreaks of water-borne diseases and malaria as people are in such crowded and poor conditions.”
“The flooding has destroyed many homes and people have also lost their assets and food, so they’re going to need a lot of support. We are especially worried about the health of vulnerable people such as pregnant women, young children and the elderly, who have no shelter and are exposed to the harsh weather.”
The floods have affected the majority of the city, but the worst-hit areas are low-lying neighbourhoods where poorer residents and displaced people tend to live. Beledweyne was already hosting more than 100,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who had fled to the city to escape drought and conflict. Their camps have been particularly badly affected, with the flood water washing away tents and submerging latrines. The plastic sheeting covering people’s tents has been worn away by the severe heat and drought of the past few years, so now cannot withstand the heavy rain.
Somalia is already in the midst of a humanitarian crisis from the drought, with an estimated 8.3 million people – half the population – in need of humanitarian aid and 1.5 million children under five acutely malnourished. Now the floods are likely to make the food crisis even worse – in Beledweyne farms have been temporarily abandoned and food prices have also shot up.
New displacement camps have been set up for those fleeing the flooding, including large sites called Ceeljaalle A, Ceeljaale B, and Farah Caafi – where both existing IDPs and newly displaced residents of the city are now staying.
Islamic Relief is working with those who have been evacuated and impacted in Beledweyne and other flood affected parts of Somalia, giving them cash assistance so they can survive and get the essentials they need. In Beledweyne it is working with more than 2,000 households giving them cash, water treatment kits and other items.
The floods have now affected more than 2.4 million people across Somalia, with 110 people killed and 1.1 million displaced across 36 districts – with areas of Baidoa, Middle and Lower Juba, and Hiran among the most affected. The floods have come during Somalia’s Deyr rainy season and are believed to have been made worse by the El Nino effect where temperature changes in parts of the Pacific Ocean influence the climate.
They have been exacerbated by both heavy rain over Somalia and swelled rivers from rainfall upstream. The floods hit Beledweyne in mid-November after a “floodwave” from the Ethiopian highlands moved along the Shabelle river, increasing the water level past the river’s capacity of 8.3 metres and causing it to burst its banks.