Across Somalia and the Horn of Africa, climate volatility and frequent extreme weather events are wreaking havoc on communities. In just the last year, vulnerable families have struggled to survive multiple climate-related crises, including prolonged drought, deadly flooding, severe heat waves, and swarms of desert locusts.
This summer, as COVID-19 continued to spread across the country, disaster struck again. Heavy rains in Somalia triggered dangerous waves of river overflows and flash floods. In Hirshabelle, South West, and Jubaland, floods impacted more than 105,000 people, inundating thousands of acres of farmland and displacing entire communities.
“Communities living in the river area are battling more than one pandemic. The annual flash floods destroy their homes and damage their crops. This year, COVID-19 is an added threat,” says Dr. Ali Abdullahi, who is part of Action Against Hunger’s team at Afgooye Hospital, which is one of few hospitals in the country that isolates and treats COVID-19 patients.
For the villages of Balguri, Damaley, Raqeyle, and Aytire in Afgooye - about 30 miles outside of the capital city, Mogadishu - the worst of the flooding occurred in early July, but people will continue to face the repercussions for months or years. The heavy rains broke riverbanks, flooded roads and farmland, and damaged houses, latrines, and water sources, ultimately impacting 6,500 people and displacing 3,000 from their homes.
Many of the displaced families have to start their lives over - though they have little to nothing left. “Some migrate and move in with family members on the other side of town, while others make the long and arduous journey to Mogadishu’s largest displacement camp,” Dr. Ali explains.
Within a week, Action Against Hunger provided immediate support to more than 2,500 displaced people through our rapid emergency response. We continue to lead a coalition of partners – known as the Caafimaad Plus Consortium – that works to ensure that children and families have access to lifesaving health and nutrition treatment services in both health centers and through mobile teams. At the same time, our teams are helping to prevent malnutrition, improve access to safe water, and improve feeding practices for infant and young children in the impacted communities.
“We have a mobile response team who travel by boat to provide lifesaving support to residents on the other side of the river who have been massively impacted by the flash floods,” Dr Ali says.
The floods are deadly - but their aftermath can be even more dangerous. The risk of water-borne disease and malaria increase, putting the health of the most vulnerable people at risk. To prevent disease and improve water, sanitation, and hygiene in this emergency situation, Action Against Hunger trucked in clean water, provided vouchers for hygiene kits, installed disinfectant supplies at key water points, built emergency latrines, and supplied emergency shelter and mosquito nets.
“As health workers we try as best we can to respond fast when emergencies occur. When we create awareness in the community, we save many lives. It’s the little acts of service we offer to the community that make a difference,” says Dr. Ali.