Inconceivable! Somalia’s Climate Crisis Intensifies with Unprecedented Levels of Devastation

The astonishing and bewildering events in Hobyo on Friday May 19, 2023 involved Mohamed Gabobe and the devastating floods that inundated Beledweyne in central Somalia. The Shabelle River overflowed its banks in an explosive and tumultuous fashion, causing widespread displacement and chaos which impacted almost the entire population of the town. Jamal Ali Abdi, a local resident who had seen minor floods before, was astonished to witness the scale of the calamity that unfolded in Beledweyne. As he became trapped in his own home with murky brown water up to his neck, he realized how serious the situation had become. “No one saw this level of devastation coming,” Ali stated in a state of utter perplexity.

The floods displaced almost 250 million people in Somalia and the Ethiopian highlands, with Beledweyne’s capital of the Hiran region suffering some of the worst damage. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called for immediate funding to boost aid, while the Somali Disaster Management Agency distributed supplies to those displaced by the floods. Unfortunately, these measures were insufficient to counter years of havoc wrought by the climate emergency. Somalia has been subject to the worst drought in 40 years, which was exacerbated by the recent deluge.

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Construction of a defensive wall by local people helped prevent flooding in the past, but the force of the water could not be controlled this time. As a result, Ali and others sought prompt refuge with relatives, though even then the situation was fraught with danger. Sharing a room with two other displaced families, Ali was aware of the risks they faced if the water level continued to rise. “No one knows when we’ll be able to return home and if the floods left anything intact,” he lamented.

Hassan Abdi, another flood victim, fled from his home in Bundooyinka with his wife and seven children as the water encroached upon their dwelling. Abdi initially hoped for a quick resolution but soon realized that this torrential outbreak of flooding was the worst he had ever seen. As he contemplated the implications of long-term displacement, Abdi became resigned to the fact that there were limits to what his siblings living in the diaspora could do to help his family. “There are certain things that money cannot fix and a natural disaster is one of them,” he ruefully acknowledged.

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