“Unfathomable Disaster Strikes: Over 250,000 Somalis Forced to Flee Homes Amidst Devastating Floods”
On Thursday May 18, 2023, the devastating effects of the climate crisis were evident in central Somalia as flash flooding caused by extreme seasonal rains and the breaking of the Shabelle River’s banks resulted in the displacement of almost a quarter of a million people. The town of Beledweyne was submerged, leaving homes destroyed, crops ruined and livestock lost. Despite being hit by the most severe drought in four decades, aid agencies and scientists have warned that it is the climate crisis that plays a significant role in accelerating humanitarian emergencies. And yet, those most affected are the least responsible for CO2 emissions.
The sudden and catastrophic flooding left residents of Beledweyne with no choice but to risk navigating the waters that filled the city. Ahmed Nur, a shopkeeper whose business was washed away, said, “At once the entire city was underwater. Beledweyne itself became like an ocean. Only the roofs of the houses could be seen. We used small boats and tractors to rescue people.” Just weeks earlier, the town had been relieved of the drought’s crippling effects as the rains arrived and farmers began to plant their crops. However, the drought, compounded by violence and food price increases caused by the war in Ukraine, resulted in the deaths of up to 43,000 people last year.
The floods have affected more than 460,000 people across the country since mid-March, killing 22 people in the process. The Somali Disaster Management Agency has reported that the flooding in Beledweyne alone has caused more than 245,000 people to be displaced. The World Bank predicts that 216 million people could be forced to move within their own countries by 2050 due to the climate stress caused by such events. Halima Abdullahi, a resident of Beledweyne with two children, has decided to move to a different village far away from the city, saying, “We shall move to villages far away. Beledweyne no longer exists.”