Following heavy rains and flooding in March this year, central Somalia again experienced heavy rains in mid-May, killing 22 people and affecting an estimated 450 000 people, of whom 219 000 have been displaced. The long rains, which had provided little relief during the past three years due to an ongoing drought, came early in Somalia this year, arriving in March and April rather than May. Humanitarian organisations have predicted that if the heavy rains continue, up to 1,6 million people could be affected.
According to a Somali Water and Land Information Management project update, the Shabelle River first breached its banks on the 9th of May, flooding the town of Belet Wayne and its surrounding farmlands for a period of two weeks. As a result, almost 90% of the residents were displaced, and families displaced by the flood have been placed in a vulnerable position with limited access to food, safe water and shelter. In addition, according to UNICEF, around twelve villages in the area are completely isolated and can only be reached by boat. The flood moved further downstream and following further rainfall on the 26th of May, a further four villages were flooded. Residents and authorities have been supported to strengthen river embankments using sandbags.
The flooding is reportedly the worst in Belet Wayne in 30 years. Paradoxically, the flood follows the longest and most severe drought on record in the Horn of Africa, which experienced six consecutive rainy seasons without rain. More than 43 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. Nevertheless humanitarian funding is currently low: UNICEF reports that the Somalia Humanitarian response plan is only 26% funded.