Just a few months ago, communities across Somalia were struggling to survive a crippling drought, which had pushed more than 400,000 people to the brink of starvation. Now, higher than average rainfall and devastating storms have caused heavy flooding that has affected an estimated 570,000 people and displaced more than 180,000 from their homes.
The situation is dire: aid experts anticipate that hunger levels will almost double in the coming months with the number of people facing a food security crisis expected to rise from 1.2 million in September to 2.1 million by January and an estimated one million children under the age of five are likely to be acutely malnourished through mid-2020.
In Southwestern areas like Hudur, where very little rain has fallen in the last five years, flash floods are a rare phenomenon and caused destruction of homes and infrastructure. In one village, Bulow, the flooding heavily impacted 1,600 families, forcing some to seek shelter in neighboring villages.
“We have never experienced such rains in Hudur. It was unexpected and it has heavily affected my family. The first week of the rains was the most challenging,” says Sumeya, a displaced mother of five. “Most of the bedding in our makeshift home was drenched by water from the rains. I had to lay cardboards on the ground for the children to get some sleep.”
Like Sumeya and her children, many of those hardest-hit by the flooding were already displaced – they had previously been forced to flee from their homes due to conflict and drought. The heavy rains and flash floods swept through their makeshift homes, destroying water and sanitation infrastructure, exposing them to extreme weather hazards, and limiting their access to basic services.
As the floodwaters rose, many families fled to higher ground and are now desperately in need of clean water, food, temporary latrines, and shelter. The rains washed out roads and limited movement in and around Hudur, disrupting supply deliveries to local markets and making it hard for people to access health and other vital services.
The heavy rains destroyed more than 300 farms, and washed away crops, top soil, and ultimately, livelihoods.
“It will take more than two months for the rain water to drain out of our farms,” says Ibrahim Hassan, a farmer in Bulow village. “We will have to wait until January before we can prepare our lands for farming.”
How We’re Responding
Action Against Hunger’s teams in Hudur worked with our partners and local authorities to conduct an emergency needs assessment to better understand the immediate impact of the flash floods and determine the most urgent needs of the population, including hunger.
Working hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Health, our teams are monitoring reported cases of malaria and respiratory disease. At our Maternal and Child Health Center, we have continued to provide primary health care services, uninterrupted by the floods. Our community health workers conducted health education sessions to improve care practices and reduce illnesses among children under five years old.
With the support from the European Union, we have provided 993 newly displaced households with hygiene kits and other basic supplies such as mosquito nets and temporary shelter. Additionally, in collaboration with local authorities, we have identified 700 of the most vulnerable families and ensured that they were first to receive emergency aid to begin recovery, prevent the spread of disease and more.
As families in Hudur cope with the current crisis and their community-led flood taskforce implements a new emergency preparedness plan, together, they are looking ahead to the future and their new normal: weather extremes. Somalia is not alone in this challenge. Last year, climate shocks and vulnerability were major drivers of acute hunger for approximately 29 million people around the world, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.