FLOODS IN SOMALIA NATURE OR POOR PLANNING?

Tuesday 15 September 2020

FLOODS IN SOMALIA NATURE OR POOR PLANNING?

By Mohamed Osman

Riverine Floods are not new to people of Beledweyne, the capital of Hiram region in Hirshabelle state. Over the years, Beledweyne residents have endured some of the worst floods in recent times. More often we see Somali media filled with flood alerts and posts of people devastated by floods. In these testing times, we see families, children, the elderly women and men struggling to rescue each other and the few assets they have.

This is happening again. Beledweyne town is on the verge of being submerged with flood water after River Shabelle burst its banks—for the third time in 12 months. Hundreds of families are fleeing their homes, moving to higher grounds for safety.

One of them is 28- year-old Dahir is Qur’an [Madrasa] teacher living in Kutinbo, Koshin village in Beletweyne town. He lives in one house with two other families. In total they are 18 people in the house including Dahir’s elderly parents and his children.

“The river water is now slowly entering the back of our house. My biggest worry is the children and my elderly mother living with me.  I must ensure they are evacuated to higher grounds outside the town, ” says Dahir.

To help him save his family, Dahir has hired a mini-bus from a family friend. He pays $20 each round to take whatever belongings they can carry to the temporary shelter on the higher grounds. He has to make at least three trips to get all the people and assets.

“It’s exhausting work but I cannot rest until everyone is safe and on higher ground. Just like the last time the town was flooded, I will relocate my family and relatives in Banaanay village, west of Beletweyne town. 

In Banaanay village, there is no running water or any other clean water. Dahir has managed to carry only two jerrycans of clean water for all the 18 people. This may only sustain them for a day or two-days, if they really push it. As soon as he drops off his family, Dahir heads to town to fetch additional water for his family which he is required to pay additional transport cost.

“For sure this is very expensive. The Madrasa is now closed and as a result I am not receiving any income to support my family. We cannot manage. On top of our water issue, we have to also think of the toilet facilities. This for now is my biggest worry after re-locating my family and relatives. We are forced to go to the bushes but this is for those who can. For my elderly mother and the women and girls of the family, this poses security threat particularly at night. We have to consider all those issued,” he adds

This is the third wave of floods hitting Beled weyne and many parts of Somalia in the last nine months. The last wave of flash and riverine floods happened in June affected more 919,000 people, of whom 412,000 have been displaced and 24 killed in 29 districts of Somalia.  Belet Weyne town was the most affected district after the Shabelle river burst its banks on 12 May, inundating 85 per cent of Belet Weyne town and 25 riverine villages. According to the district flood taskforce, about 240,000 people were displaced from the town and neighbouring villages. The current flood has already displaced 24, 000 households in Hiiran alone, and about 200,000 people in Afgooye district of lower Shabelle.

These recurring catastrophes continue to harm Somalia’ poor families who have settled along the low-lying floodplains across the country.  While heavy rains along Ethiopian highlands can be blamed for severe floods, poor planning and management of water resources is a contributing factor to human suffering caused by the humanitarian disasters.

In June, the government mobilized resources and encouraged communities to construct ridges using heavy equipment. The ridges helped reduced the water speed in vulnerable areas of towns. The opening of the Waraaboole canal in Beletweyne under the same partnership has helped to release flood waters away from Beletweyne town.  However more needs to be done to avert this situation from happening. There is a need to find sustainable solutions to prevent floods from devastating the poor children and their families—over and over again.