Somalia’s dual disaster: Flash floods amid ongoing conflict

Mogadishu (Caasimada Online) – The central region of Somalia has been ravaged by a flash flood catastrophe, resulting in the tragic loss of 22 lives and the displacement of hundreds of thousands.

The calamity was caused by the Shabelle River, which burst its banks due to heavy rainfall, forcing the inhabitants of nearby settlements to evacuate their homes hastily.

The inundation in Beledweyne town in the Hiran region has provoked chaos and distress, with floodwater infiltrating homes and submerging roads and buildings.

Residents gathered their possessions hastily, wading through the waterlogged streets in a desperate quest for shelter.

“Whenever the river breaks the banks, we flee,” a local mother of eight, identified by Fartun Ali, told AFP. This is her fifth encounter with such flooding in Beledweyne.

Worsening conditions: Climate change and conflict

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that nearly 460,470 people have been affected by this disaster, with around 219,000 displaced from their homes, primarily in flood-prone areas.

“The floods have left a trail of destruction… inundating homes and farmland, washing away livestock, temporarily closing schools and health facilities, and damaging roads,” OCHA said in a situation report.

This disaster strikes Somalia as the country grapples with multiple challenges: it is still recovering from a record drought that pushed millions to the brink of famine and has been grappling with an Islamist insurgency for decades.

Residents and experts concur that extreme weather events have become increasingly frequent and intense due to climate change, exacerbating the region’s vulnerability.

Regional impact: East and Central Africa

East and Central Africa are no strangers to extreme weather events, particularly during the rainy seasons.

Earlier this month, torrential rains claimed 135 lives. They left more than 9,000 homeless in Rwanda, triggering floods and landslides across the hilly nation.

Last week, the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo witnessed over 400 fatalities due to intense downpours, floods, and landslides.

In May 2020, heavy rains in Rwanda resulted in at least 65 deaths, while Kenya reported at least 194 fatalities.

As 2019 drew to a close, relentless rainfall over two months caused the death of at least 265 people and displaced tens of thousands in several East African countries.

The downpours affected nearly two million people and washed away tens of thousands of livestock across Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

These catastrophic events underline the urgent need for region-wide policies and initiatives to manage and mitigate the risks associated with climate change.