Aid agencies are ramping up efforts to mitigate the impact of the El Niño phenomenon in Somalia between October and December. More than 600,000 people in southern and central Somalia and in Puntland are likely to be affected by flooding, which may result in disease and deterioration in the food security and nutritional situations. In Somaliland, the El Niño could further exacerbate drought conditions in some coastal areas.
“Following the early warning issued by the FAO managed Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) in July this year, and drawing from lessons learnt from the devastating impact of previous El Niño events, humanitarian partners have developed contingency plans and are scaling up preparedness activities, including pre-positioning aid supplies and boats in areas most likely to be affected by flooding,” said Peter de Clercq, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Somalia. “Since communities in the flood-prone areas will be the first to respond, partners are working with local authorities and community leadership to strengthen local response capacity, reinforce river embankments and raise awareness, including through distribution of climate monitoring information.”
The El Niño phenomenon is expected to cause heavy rains and flooding along Juba and Shabelle rivers, flash floods in parts of low-lying areas in central Somalia and Puntland, and exacerbate drought conditions in parts of Somaliland. The likely impacts of the 2015-16 El Niño events may be severe for people living in areas already facing some of the worst humanitarian and human development indicators in the world.
While aid agencies will continue to monitor needs arising from the effects of El Niño, an initial US$30 million is required to strengthen preparedness and kick start immediate response in 2015. Some donors have already provided funding for the contingency plan. Previous El Niño events have caused massive flooding in Somalia. Some 900,000 people were affected in 1997-98 and over 440,000 people were affected in 2006-7. The effects of the El Niño phenomenon this year could extend several months into 2016.
The El Niño phenomenon comes on top of an already dire humanitarian situation in Somalia – one of the most protracted and complex emergencies in the world today. More than three million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, 1.1 million of whom are internally displaced.