Floods displaced over 400,000 people in Somalia: UNICEF

“I came here in September of last year to inform you of the terrible effects of Somalia’s drought on children and families. Somalia was facing a sixth season after experiencing five unsuccessful rainy seasons.

“Thankfully, a declaration of famine has been avoided, which would have confirmed our darkest worries for children and was foreseen last year.

But the onset of the rains has caused hardship for many children and families, in a terrible yet somewhat unexpected irony. More than 400,000 people have already been affected by flooding this year. Humanitarian partners now estimate that up to 1.6 million people might experience flash and riverine floods if the current Gu season’s torrential rains in Somalia and the Ethiopian highlands persist.

“Last week, I visited the Hiran region’s Beletweyne town, where flooding has driven over 90% of the locals from their homes. The availability of necessities like food, clean water, and shelter is restricted for families who have been affected by the floods. They informed me they are used to flooding but never to this scale or intensity.

I met several of them while they were staying in temporary shelters. They lost their daily incomes, their homes and latrines were destroyed, schools and healthcare services were shut down, and some of them have since started missing meals or asking for loans from local businesses.”

There are 12 or more entirely cut off communities that can only be visited by boat. Although UNICEF and the local government are already offering assistance, the level of need is far greater.

“With so much misery dominating the news, the focus of the world has been diverted, which will harm children in nations like Somalia. The Somalia Humanitarian Response Plan is barely 26% financed as June draws closer. At a time when high risk prevails of an outbreak of diseases like cholera as well as malaria, the provision of safe water as well as sanitation is jeopardized because the Water, Hygiene, and Sanitation Cluster of the plan is only around 11% funded.

What does the state of Somalia tell us, then?

“First: It shows us that Somalia’s story—and the difficulty facing a generation of youngsters growing up in the nation—is a climate catastrophe rather than just a matter of droughts or floods. Communities in Somalia are suffering the most despite having made the least contribution to climate change. People’s coping strategies have been weakened by the droughts and floods, which are occurring more frequently and with greater severity.

“Second: Humanitarian funding must be flexible and frontloaded to address both immediate demands for life-saving measures as well as needs that go beyond these to increase community resilience. Investments in long-term strategies and localization must be made in conjunction with humanitarian funding. In order to offer populations a chance to escape this cycle of successive humanitarian crises, the international community must assist Somalia in gaining access to climate financing, making investments in livelihoods, and promoting climate adaption. Because they are first responders and have better access to those in need, national partners like the government and local NGOs must lead the response.

“Third: It demonstrates to us that, despite the difficulties, success in Somalia is attainable. Although initially sluggish to act, the international community stepped in to help Somalia when starvation threatened to overthrow the nation and undo years of arduous labor. Famine was avoided thanks to the increased efforts of aid organizations. In order to maintain such success, there are moral and strategic imperatives.

“The time is crucial for international community to continue and increase its assistance, not to stop. Another human disaster, measured once more in the lives and futures of children, is just one failed rainy season away for Somalia and the other nations in this region.

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