May 22, 2024

The occurrence of flash flooding in Somalia increases the vulnerability of children to malnutrition.

People affected by floods in Chad are using canoes as means of transport to be able to access certain areas severely affected by the floods. November 2022. © ALEXIS BALEKAGE/MSF

Sahra Mahumd in Somalia

Severe floods that have occurred throughout Somalia have resulted in the displacement of approximately 118,000 children and 101,000 adults. In addition to the loss of life, the floods have also increased the risk of malnutrition and the outbreak of diseases among children who have been affected.

Excessive precipitation in the Somali and Ethiopian highlands has caused record-breaking flooding in Beledweyne, located in the Hiran region of central Somalia, as the Shabelle River overflowed its banks. This is the worst flooding experienced in three decades.

Somalia has been experiencing a string of severe weather occurrences lately, including the floods, which have been adversely affecting children and communities who are bearing the brunt of the worldwide climate emergency. Following five consecutive failed rainy seasons resulting in a devastating drought that destroyed both crops and livestock, the country has been pushed to the verge of famine, and now faces further devastation through the arrival of floods.

The challenging climatic conditions accompanied by persistent strife and rising food costs have resulted in a significant demand for humanitarian  aid, with approximately 8.3 million individuals, representing almost 50% of the populace, being affected. Additionally, over 1.4 million persons have been internally displaced, with a substantial number residing in camps.

Before the occurrence of floods, approximately 6.5 million individuals were encountering critical food shortage while roughly 1. 8 million children were suffering from acute malnutrition, as per the United Nations.

At the age of 28, Sirad has five children. Her former abode was situated in rustic environs where she nurtured livestock and grew various grains and produce to cater to her household’s needs. After being displaced due to the drought and persistent conflict, she sought refuge in Beledweyne roughly eight months ago. 

During a conversation with Save the Children representatives, she shared that her family has faced consecutive episodes of displacement over the last five years, triggered by various factors including armed conflict, drought and currently flooding. As a result, her family is facing severe difficulties in sustaining themselves.

The severe droughts led to significant losses in the animal population and consequently, we were left with minimal resources. Furthermore, due to the ensuing conflicts, we were forced to abandon the area. Our livestock contributed to both our dairy and meat supplies. A significant number of them perished due to the drought, with a few managing to endure; yet, a subsequent deluge and intense precipitation proved fatal for the remaining individuals.

Save the Children interviewed Hali*, a mother of 40, who resides with her spouse and kids in a camp for displaced persons. Due to the floods, the markets being closed have resulted in a lack of employment opportunities for her husband who once worked as a driver, and as a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide enough food for her children. Hali is concerned about the potential health hazards her children might face, particularly malaria, owing to their inadequate housing and absence of mosquito nets.

Save the Children is aiding children and their families in Beledweyne by offering humanitarian aid, such as supplying clean water and sanitation amenities, to over 8,640 households. The aid organization has taken action by deploying medical personnel and resources to tackle health issues and thwart the spread of illnesses caused by contaminated water. Save the Children is offering financial aid to nearly 900 households for the purpose of purchasing food.

According to Mohamud Mohamed Hassan, who serves as the Country Director for Save the Children in Somalia, stated that.

“We’re coming across families who have been hit by successive crises ranging from conflict to drought and now floods and this is taking a huge toll on them. Before the floods, children were on the brink of starvation as sequentially failed rains brought about the worst hunger crisis in 40 years.

“While humanitarian agencies are working tirelessly to protect and provide humanitarian aid to vulnerable children and communities in Beledweyne, relief efforts are hampered by limited funding. More funds are needed to provide food and critical health care services as well as to assess the damaged, repair basic infrastructure, and develop long-term strategies to mitigate the impact of future floods.

“We’re also calling for increased investment in climate change adaptation for communities in Somalia, including integrated water resources management and implementation of environmental regulation to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate induced crisis.”

Since 1951, Save the Children has been actively operating in Somalia and Somaliland, providing various programs that support the healthcare, education, and nutritional requirements of children.

In 2022, Save the Children extended humanitarian assistance to approximately 4.3 million individuals, of which roughly 2.5 million were children.