Thursday 7 November 2019

Beledweyne Flooding is another level of crises that needs more attention

 By Saddam Hussein Carab,

On the morning of Sunday, October 27th, 2019, I took-off from Mogadishu airport, heading to the mountainous region of  Hiran, central parts of Somalia. This is one of the areas where river Shabelle, originating from the Ethiopian highlands, crosses over many parts of the region including Beledweyne town—a home to at least 400,000 people. Most of the families in and around the town depend on farming using the river Shabelle for irrigation.

 After 35 minutes of  flying from Mogadishu, we begin our descend and I look down through the window next to me.  What I see is not just shocking but devastating. Almost the whole town is covered by water. From the plane’s window, the houses seem to be floating, like pieces of iron sheets swimming in the lake.  This is what happened when the banks of river Shabelle broke and released its waters, following days of heavy rains along the Ethiopian highlands.

As soon as we land, I go to visit the affected areas, I wanted to see for myself how bad the situation was. It was real. The place was flooded with at least half a meter deep of water. The whole town looked like a huge lake with houses floating. People have abandoned their homes and farms, seeking refuge in temporary settlements located on higher grounds. This time, the people of Beledweyne did not feel fortunate having a river crossing over their town.

I then visit the temporary site were most of the affected families have settled, waiting for the water to recede before they attempt to return to their homes. The scene here is very different from what I before we landed. The make shift huts are made of some sticks covered with orange plastic sheets or old clothing hardly secure enough to call a home. In each hut I visit, I see the same the desperation and hear the same cry for help. “When the water reached my house, I just had to leave everything and run. We came here with nothing. All I wanted was to save my children, ” says Hani, a mother of children and one of the victims of the floods.

 Hani and her children have been living in this make-shift hut for the last three days when I met them. She says her main fear is lack of food for her children. When she first arrived, her relatives donated some food to her but that has run out. “I cook once a day only to help us survive.  Sometimes we all sleep without food. Now I don’t know what I will feed my children tomorrow.  ”

 Next to Hani’s hut I meet nine-year-old Samia Saed, another flood victim. Before she was evacuated here, Samia used to go to school and is in class four. Now she is not sure how long she will stay here without going to school. “I want to be a doctor. I really miss school. How long will we stay here?  No one really knows,” she says.

This breaks my heart. Yes no one knows for sure as the town is still under waters.  According to the preliminary observations from the Beletweyne flood task force committee co-led by Save the Children and the local authorities, the Shabelle river flooding is among the worst ever seen. Within a span of few days, the situation deteriorated resulting destroying homes and livelihoods bringing the town to a standstill. On October 28th, a boat carrying 20 people mainly from the local authority capsized in Hawo -Tako village in Beletweyne town killing 10 people and four are still missing- presumably dead.

Those fled their homes due to the flooding are facing harsh living conditions in the evacuation IDP sites. Due to these financial constraints it is extremely difficult for the most vulnerable to access basic necessities such as food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities and shelter. Save the Children was among the first humanitarian agencies to respond to crisis in Beledweyne. Through its Building Resilient Communities in Somalia (BRCiS) programme funded by DFiD Save the Children was able to provide the initial basic necessities including clean water, Non-food items, Hygiene kits among other services.  To date, the program has provided clean water through water trucking to at least 11,700 households, construction of temporary latrines as well as conducting hygiene promotion session among affected communities. In the addition, the project will be supporting at some 800 household with unconditional cash transfers of USD 60 per months for the next three months.