From drought to deluge: Somalia’s crisis deepens

MOGADISHU, Somalia (Caasimada Online) – The United Nations humanitarian agency reported that flash floods caused by heavy rainfall in southern Somalia had killed nearly 14 people, displaced thousands and causing widespread property damage.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated that the Gedo region’s Bardhere district experienced the heaviest rainfall in recent days, with several areas across the country receiving light to moderate rains over the past week.

The rainfall marks an early start to the Gu (April-May-June) rainy season, the primary wet season in Somalia. The Gu season is crucial for agriculture, water replenishment, and pasture regeneration.

OCHA’s latest rainfall outlook for the 2023 Gu season, released on Thursday evening, predicts continued rainfall in most parts of the country through March, albeit with drier conditions towards the end of the season.

Humanitarian challenges  

Humanitarian agencies have expressed concern over the potential deterioration of living conditions for internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially those residing in overcrowded settlements with insufficient shelter.

The current rains come as aid agencies grapple with increased disease outbreaks, such as acute watery diarrhea/cholera and measles, which the UN believes may escalate due to the risk of people consuming contaminated water and the lack of adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities and services.

Heavy rains in Galmudug State, central Somalia, led to flash flooding and power outages in Adado and Dhusamareb on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in Puntland State, northeastern Somalia, floods resulted in crop and livestock losses and infrastructure damage to businesses, residential houses, and IDP settlements. Displaced persons were reportedly forced to seek higher ground.

Drought and food insecurity

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations Somalia Water and Land Information Management (FAO-SWALIM), there is a 50% probability of below-normal rainfall (drier than normal conditions) in most parts of Somalia, but with high spatial variability.

This scenario could lead to an unprecedented sixth below-average rainy season in Somalia, which, combined with above-normal temperatures, would negatively impact crop and pasture regeneration.

Somalia is already grappling with drought, as over 6 million people face extreme hunger due to a historic drought. Food security experts have declared the situation “extremely critical.”

The UN and partner organizations recently released an assessment revealing “very high mortality rates” among the worst-affected populations in Mogadishu, the capital, and the southwestern city of Baidoa.

Although famine is no longer projected for the hardest-hit population between April and June, acute food insecurity warnings persist. The Horn of Africa may experience its sixth consecutive failed rainy season.

Some humanitarian and climate officials argue that the current trends are worse than the 2011 famine, which killed a quarter-million people in Somalia.

The latest food security assessment estimates that nearly half a million children in Somalia are at risk of severe malnutrition this year.