Mogadishu, April 29, 2020. As Somalia struggles to respond to the rapid increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases, the country is experiencing a new wave of flash floods and Save the Children is warning of the devastating impact on children due to these multiple disasters.
According to the recent reports, heavy rains is already wreaking havoc in some parts of the country while other riverine communities are left in fear as the Juba and Shabelle river levels continue to rise.
On April 28th, heavy rains in Gardo town and surrounding areas caused flash floods killing at least 6 people, including 3 children and 31 people are still missing. The floods have also destroyed assets, food stores, markets, telecommunications and other public services. The Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Agency ( HADMA) in Puntland confirms that at least 11,000 households ( about 66,000 people) have been affected and need urgent humanitarian assistance. Some of the households are seeking shelter in nearby schools as rescue operations continue.
Recent reports confirm that heavy and persistent rains have led to a dramatic increase in river Shabelle with the river in Hiran region rising to up to 6. 5 meters—less than 2 meters to reach risk threshold (flooding point) as of April 29th. As it continues to rain in the Ethiopian highlands which is the source of Juba and Shabelle rivers, authorities in Hiran Region fear that the floods will affect at least 50,000 households and cause massive displacements particularly in Beledweyne town and surrounding areas in coming few weeks.
Flash floods have also caused havoc in Dollow town leading to destruction of homes and business premises. In Gedo region the levels of Juba river have surpassed high risk flood levels, impacting farmlands, south of the river.
At the same time, floods have destroyed homes and farm lands in and around Burao town in Somaliland causing massive humanitarian needs for affected communities.
This comes at a time when the government and the country’s health systems is already overstretched responding to the COVID19 pandemic, currently dealing with 480 cases, a sharp increase since the first case was confirmed on March 16th and 26 reported deaths.
Mohamed Hassan Mohamud, Save the Children Country Director says:
“Children are already tormented by the impact of COVID19. They see people around them getting really sick and other dying from the virus, schools closed abruptly with no hope of going back anytime soon. Now they risk losing everything they have to floods. The impact on children is just overwhelming. We know at times like these, malnutrition and diseases outbreaks will also hound Somali children. Without scaled up humanitarian assistance, ensuring the safety of affected families more lives will be lost. We should not allow that to happen.”
“We are also concerned about increasing vulnerability of children and their psychological well-being to these multiple disasters. We must scale up support to families to minimize the impact on children.”
The 2020 Gu (April-June) seasonal rains continue to intensify across Somalia. Compared to the previous two weeks, there has been a significant increase of rainfall in most parts of the country as well as the eastern parts of Ethiopian highlands. Many areas observed more than three days of consecutive heavy rains, causing flash flooding along Juba and Shabelle rivers in Bay and Bakool Regions.
Save the Children is calling upon all humanitarian agencies to ensure that children continue to be prioritized in the response as possible for affected children and ensure they ae well protected. In response to this unfolding disaster Save the Children is conducting rapid need assessment among affected communities in Gardo. In addition, the organization has deployed two mobile health teams to support children and their families, provide clean water through water trucking and will be conducting hygiene promotion and distributing hygiene kits. The child protection teams will start tracing and reunification process for any children reported missing, register the most needed children and provide child protection kits as part of its first response.