El Niño conditions are expected to severely hit Somalia during this year’s September to December rainy season (Deyr rainfall), aid agencies warn.
This is likely to lead to a wetter than normal season with a very high risk of flooding in parts of the country.
Members of the Somalia NGO Consortium have on Thursday warned that the effects of the increased rains will further deteriorate an already desperate humanitarian situation in Somalia.
Between 500,000 – 900,000 people living alongside the Shabelle and Juba rivers are at risk of being affected by flooding.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that this year’s El Niño could mirror the 1997-98 weather patterns that left large parts of southern Somalia underwater and killed an estimated 2,000 people.
“Thousands of people in Somalia are already feeling the effects of this super El Niño, seeing their crops fail, livestock stressed and the price of staple foods soar because of shortages,” said Enzo Vecchio, Oxfam’s Somalia Country Director. “Such extreme weather events are only going to increase as climate change ramps up. We are likely to see floods in the coming weeks which risk devastating communities reliant on food aid for survival and pushing many more into crisis.”
The effects of the El Niño phenomenon could further aggravate the humanitarian crisis the country is currently facing by causing major population displacement, loss of lives, increased human rights risks, disruption and reduced access to basic goods and social services, destruction of means of livelihoods and shelter, food insecurity, increased malnutrition, contamination of the natural environment and hindrance to humanitarian access.
There is a high likelihood of towns and villages being cut off from main supply routes, making it difficult for communities to access basic services and delivery of relief supplies. People living in semi-permanent or poorly constructed shelters, children, pregnant and lactating women, the elderly and people living with disabilities are most vulnerable to the effects of heavy flooding. Additionally, internally displaced and other vulnerable persons have a reduced or no means to cope with the consequences of this natural disaster. Furthermore, there are heightened risks of possible outbreaks of water-borne diseases and lack of clean water, as most of the shallow wells on which people depend on for clean water will be destroyed or contaminated. Most household food supplies could also be lost in the floods.1
An El Niño Contingency Plan has been developed by the humanitarian community in consultation with authorities at Federal and Regional levels taking into account lessons learned and needs identified from previous responses to El Niño related emergencies in Somalia. The Plan prepares for an effective, integrated and timely response when needed.
This entails both preventive and assistance measures including early warning, pre-positioning of stocks and emergency assistance programs on food, nutrition, health, water, sanitation and hygiene, shelter, non-food items and protection in order to save lives and alleviate human suffering. The main gaps and constraints to the effective delivery of response as identified by humanitarian actors in Somalia are access constraints and funding shortfalls, with the contingency plan requesting USD 30 million to support preparedness and response.