Local farmers in Belet Weyne, Somalia, have been dealt a devastating blow as the town grapples with unprecedented flooding. This tragedy comes at a particularly cruel moment for the farmers who had finally seen a glimmer of hope after enduring a debilitating three-year drought.
Since early May, the town has been transformed into a watery wasteland, with over 200 000 people bearing the brunt of the floods. Shockingly, FAO’s Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) unit reports that nearly 79% of Belet Weyne has been submerged underwater.
Ezana Kassa, the head of FAO’s programme in Somalia, describes the current flooding as the most severe event witnessed along the Shabelle river in the past 30 years. Families displaced by the deluge find themselves on the edge of despair, facing immense dangers.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 200 000 people have been forcefully uprooted from their homes, desperately in need of provisions such as food, water, shelter, and life-saving aid. Kassa warns of the devastating consequences, stating, “Livelihoods have been destroyed, and the risk of waterborne diseases is on the rise.”
In response to this unfolding crisis, FAO has swiftly taken action, providing vital flood reports and analysis to support humanitarian organisations. Through their “Digniin” early warning system, FAO is tirelessly issuing messages to warn and guide affected communities.
The organisation is now intensifying emergency cash transfers to assist families in need and bolstering preparedness initiatives. However, the threat persists, as neighbouring districts like Bulo Burto, Jalalaqsi, and Jowhar face moderate to high flood risk warnings.
Asha Khalif Mohamed, from the Hirshabelle State Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, passionately appeals to the international community for urgent assistance in this dire situation.
The government has swiftly delivered emergency supplies and provisions to affected communities and has taken the lead in coordinating response efforts on the ground.
Mohamed emphasises the critical importance of readiness to meet the needs of the affected population once the floodwaters recede, stressing the urgency to prevent disease outbreaks and facilitate a swift recovery through sustainable livelihood interventions.
FAO’s previous interventions in Belet Weyne and the surrounding areas have yielded positive results. Reports indicate that flood control measures implemented by FAO in 2022, with support from the United Kingdom, the World Bank, and the Italian government, successfully held flood levels at bay for weeks longer than in previous years.
Despite these efforts, the current catastrophe has shattered all records since at least 1991, with floodwaters breaching defenses and wreaking havoc. Nevertheless, other interventions have managed to mitigate the disaster’s impact by effectively impeding floodwaters and preventing an even greater catastrophe.
These historic floods are the latest addition to a series of natural disasters that have besieged Somalia in recent years, firmly attributed to the ominous spectre of global climate change. The devastating drought of 2021-2022 pushed the country to the brink of famine, leaving 6.6 million people acutely food insecure in its wake.
This crisis serves as a stark reminder of Somalia’s vulnerability to climate change. The country is already ranked among the world’s most susceptible nations to climate-related events, and scientific models predict an alarming escalation in the frequency of such shocks.
In addition to immediate aid for the affected populations, FAO highlights the pressing need for substantial investments in long-term solutions, including robust flood management initiatives. These measures are crucial to mitigate the far-reaching impact of climate shocks on vulnerable communities, safeguard their food security, and fortify their resilience against future challenges.