More than two dozen lives have been lost, and hundreds of thousands displaced in southwestern Somalia due to flash flooding, intensifying the challenges faced by a nation grappling with the aftermath of East Africa’s worst drought in four decades.
Since the start of the month, relentless rainstorms have wreaked havoc not only in Somalia but also in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, triggering landslides and inundating villages and farmlands.
Chairman of Somalia Disaster Management Agency, Mohamed Moalim Abdullahi, issued a warning about the impending rains, emphasizing the predicted severity of the situation.
The death toll has reached at least 29, with 850,000 affected, including over 300,000 uprooted from their homes, particularly in the strife-weary southwest.
Rescue efforts are hindered by cut roads, as reported by the UN humanitarian agency, OCHA. “Inaccessible roads and stuck vehicles are just some of the challenges aid workers in Somalia are grappling with,” it stated.
A joint effort by aid agencies is underway to urgently rescue 2,400 people trapped by rising floodwaters in Luuq town, on the road linking the Somalia-Ethiopia border with Baidoa.
Somalia, vulnerable to climate change, struggles to cope with the crisis amid a deadly Islamist insurgency. El Nino, expected to persist until at least April 2024, exacerbates global temperatures, warned the United Nations.
The World Meteorological Organization emphasized that this phenomenon occurs within the context of rapid climate change.
East Africa’s woes extend beyond Somalia, with at least 15 deaths reported in Kenya due to flash flooding, and over 20 fatalities and 12,000 displacements in Ethiopia’s Somali region.
The historical context is grim, as the devastating floods of October 1997 to January 1998, caused by El Nino, led to over 6,000 deaths in the Horn of Africa, with Somalia’s Juba River bursting its banks and claiming 1,800 lives. Similarly, in 2006, unseasonal rains caused flooding, leaving over 140 dead in Somalia, with additional threats from crocodiles and a malaria epidemic.