Floods Leave Hundreds of Thousands of Somalis Needing Aid

Somalia’s federal government and U.N. aid agencies are calling for humanitarian assistance to help hundreds of thousands of Somalis affected by some of the heaviest floods in years.

A government emergency committee said heavy rains caused the overflow of the Juba and Shabelle rivers, as well as streams and creeks in the Bay and Bakool regions.

The town most affected is Belet Weyne in the Hiran region, about 340 kilometers north of Mogadishu, where floods swamped residential and business buildings, and drove thousands of people from their homes. Authorities in the town said at least 10 people have died.

“The level of the Shabelle River, which runs through the city, burst its banks and led to overbank spillage into the entire town, and consequently floodwaters, about six meters above the ground, expanded fast across the town,” Ali Mohamed Arale, the regional governor, told VOA.

“I have never seen such floodwaters in the town in my life. It is one of its worst in history,” he said.

A statement from the office of Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said 85 percent of the town is under water and most of the town’s economic infrastructure has been destroyed.

Khaire warned that hundreds of thousands of people need urgent support. “If we do not change our words to action, things will get worse,” he said.

On Thursday, aid group Save the Children put the number of displaced people around Belet Weyne at more than 200,000, half of them children.

Health fears

Thousands of locals who have formed makeshift camps on high ground are in desperate need of food and water, government officials said.

Local doctors are warning that mosquito-borne diseases like malaria could become a problem after flooding.

“Those who fled from the floods are at risk of getting sick with waterborne diseases, if they do not get an emergent medical attention,” said Osman Mohamud Dufle, a doctor and member of the country’s upper house.

Earlier this month, a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said that climate change is hampering efforts to bring peace to Somalia, as droughts and floods strengthen the hand of militants and weaken the power of the government.

For much of the last decade, Somalia has struggled with chronic drought. The 2011 drought was especially severe, killing an estimated 260,000 people.

The Deyr (October-December) rains, which started early in many parts of Somalia, continued as October came to an end.

Source: Voice of America