By Robin Gomes
Almost 500,000 people are hit by devastating floods in central Somalia, with high risk of malnutrition and epidemics, “Save the Children” charity group and United Nations agencies in the country have warned.
Families displaced by drought and near-famine conditions last year are now on the move again, with catastrophic flash flooding displacing nearly 175,000, leaving them more vulnerable to malnutrition and diseases such as Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) and cholera.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the current floods are some of the worst the region has ever seen, and the current water level exceeds a 50-year return period in most locations.
Yngvil Foss, the deputy head at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Somalia said that UN relief agencies have been able to raise funding over the past week to scale up critical interventions.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) delivered 4.5 million metric tons of medicines and other medical supplies to Belet Weyne, the capital of the hard hit HirShabelle province, on 29 April.
Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General told reporters in New York on Monday that humanitarian partners on the ground have prioritized water, sanitation, hygiene, [health,] shelter and food response in their interventions.
Save the Children has distributed 12,000 sandbags this week, and is providing clean and safe drinking water to 7,000 households. The aid agency is also constructing 90 emergency latrines to address a lack of sanitation facilities and to prevent disease outbreaks in and around Belet Weyne.
Giada Aquilino of Vatican News contacted Bishop Giorgio Bertin of Djibouti who is also Apostolic Administrator of Mogadiscio Diocese, in Somalia, to know more about the ground situation in the country.
Bishop Bertin said that people living along the rivers Webi Shabelle and Webi Jubba are badly hit. Areas in lower Webi Jubba, he said, had been earlier hit by drought in the previous years, which combined with the insecurity situation caused by Islamist extremists had displaced many. These people had taken refuge particularly near Belet Weyne, Kismayo and other towns in lower areas of river Jubba.
Bishop Bertin said that the situation has exacerbated with heavy rains in Somalia and Ethiopia, because both rivers come from Ethiopia and flow through Somalia into the Indian Ocean.
Bishop Bertin said that the local Church was doing its best the assist the affected people. It was collaborating with other local organizations to provide food, especially in around Belet Weyne.