On Friday May 19, 2023, the world received the distressing news of the historic floods in Somalia that left more than 460,000 people affected and at least 22 people dead. The United Nations is presently focused on providing rescue and relief efforts to the displaced victims. The flash and riverine flooding sent shockwaves throughout the country and is believed to be one of Somalia’s worst in decades. The intense Gu seasonal rainfall caused the overflowing of the Shabelle and Juba Rivers in central Somalia. Petroc Wilton, the head of communications at WFP Somalia, expressed her concern, stating that “Floods have washed away livestock, inundated farmland and displaced an estimated 219,000 people.” She further added, “Gu seasonal rains have caused these floods and increased humanitarian needs.”
The Somalia’s Disaster Management Agency (SoDMA) confirmed 22 fatalities. Somalia has been experiencing its longest drought on record, adding to the suffering of the people. Wilton indicated that it would take several rainy seasons to reverse the effects of the drought, stating that 4 million livestock have died. God help Somalia!
According to Ezana Kassa, the head of United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Somalia, “We are witnessing the Shabelle river’s worst flooding event in the last 30 years. The situation for many displaced families is very precarious right now.” The flooding is most severe in Somalia’s central state of Hirshabelle, with high water levels resulting in the closure of government offices, schools, and hospitals. Footage showing Belet Weyne residents wading through waist-deep waters further highlights the dire situation.
Najima, a victim of the disaster, was heartbroken when she said, “I am at a loss for words at the suffering of my people who have been going through so much without release…My aunt and my cousins have lost everything, their family photos, their valuables, their entire lives.” We can only hope and pray that the world will come to the aid of Somalia in this time of crisis.
It is alarming to note that climate change is a significant contributing factor to the extreme droughts and floods in Somalia. Despite Somalia contributing only 0.03% to greenhouse gas emissions, the Somalis are among the worst victims of the havoc caused by the climate crisis. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his concern during his visit to Somalia in April, “The Horn of Africa needs increased humanitarian support to avert a famine crisis.” The UN forecasts that if heavy rains in Somalia and the Ethiopian highlands continue, up to 1.6 million people could be affected, and over 600,000 displaced. God help Somalia!