November 30, 2023

More than 1.7 million people are in need as torrential rains destroy homes and livelihoods in Horn of Africa.

The death toll from flash flooding caused by torrential rains in Somalia has risen to 50, with nearly 700,000 people driven from their homes, according to a government official.

With more heavy rains starting on Tuesday, the plight of people in the country is expected to worsen, he said.

“Fifty people died in the disaster … while 687,235 people were forced to flee their houses,” Mohamud Moalim Abdullahi, the director of the Somali Disaster Management Agency, said at a news conference on Monday.

“The expected rains between 21st and 24th of November … may cause more flooding which could cause death and destruction.”

The Horn of Africa region is experiencing heavy downpours and floods linked to the El Nino weather phenomenon, killing dozens of people and causing large-scale displacement, including in Somalia, where the rains have destroyed bridges and inundated residential areas.

The floods and extreme rains have resulted in “catastrophic” consequences for hundreds of thousands who have lost their homes and properties, or their animals and crops, the International Rescue Committee said in a statement on Monday, adding that more than 1.7 million people are in “urgent need”.

“With above-normal rainfall expected to persist until the end of 2023, this will exacerbate the already grave humanitarian situation, whereby 4.3 million people, a quarter of the population are expected to face crisis-level hunger or worse by the end of 2023,” the aid agency added.

NGO World Vision said the current floods have destroyed homes, schools and roads, leaving children without basic needs such as shelter, food and drinking water.

“The floods have made life extremely difficult for children. Ongoing flooding has destroyed homes forcing children and their families to leave their homes, some of whom are now sheltering in makeshift structures in the open. As they move, they are at increased risk of illness,” Kevin Mackey, the organisation’s Somalia country director, said in a statement on Monday.

On Saturday, the United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA said the number of people displaced by heavy rains and floods in Somalia “has nearly doubled in one week”.

“In addition, roads, bridges and airstrips have been damaged in several areas, affecting the movement of people and supplies and leading to increased prices of basic commodities,” OCHA said.

British charity Save the Children on Thursday said more than 100 people, including 16 children, had died and hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia due to flash flooding.

The Horn of Africa is one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events are occurring with increased frequency and intensity.

The region is emerging from the worst drought in four decades after multiple failed rainy seasons that left millions of people in need and devastated crops and livestock.

Humanitarian groups have warned that the situation is only likely to worsen and called for urgent global intervention as El Nino is expected to last until at least April 2024.

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