Floods, Locusts, Disease: Somalia's Humanitarian Crisis


17 Mar 2021 by The Water Diplomat

Somalia’s prolonged humanitarian crisis is characterised by ongoing conflicts, climate-related shocks, communicable disease outbreaks and weak social protection mechanisms, according to a January report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Devastating humanitarian consequences” are the outcome of increasingly erratic weather patterns involving extended periods of severe drought punctuated by extreme flooding.

During 2020, flooding displaced 919,000 people and destroyed essential infrastructure, says the report, while the worst invasion of desert locusts in 25 years damaged tens of thousands of hectares of cropland and pasture.

Meanwhile, OCHA anticipates the Covid-19 pandemic, an ongoing outbreak of cholera and other communicable diseases “will continue to affect the most vulnerable Somalis and strain the already weak health system”. Despite forecasts of below-average overall rainfall, the organisation also expects further flooding during the April to June rainy season.

More than 83,000 people have been displaced by water shortages since November 2020, with pre-drought conditions reported in some areas. “The loss of rain-fed pasture is threatening the survival of livestock which is the foundation of many Somalis’ livelihoods. Displaced people have told [us] that they are moving in search of water and pasture for their animals,” said OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke.

“Water shortages will also escalate the risk of disease outbreaks,” he added, noting that humanitarian organisations are delivering water to around 300,000 people and that $13 million has been released from the Somalia Humanitarian Fund to step up response efforts.

OCHA estimates that 5.9 million people in Somalia will need humanitarian assistance in 2021, up from 5.2 million in 2020, and calculates that aid of $1.09 Billion USD is needed to help 4 million of the most vulnerable people. However, only $27.5 Million USD (2.5 Percent) has been received to-date.