The people of Somalia have been hit by a triple tragedy. In the wake of three years of devastating drought, Tropical Cyclone Sagar made landfall in the country’s northwest on May 19, leaving a trail of destruction across the states of Puntland and Somaliland. Meanwhile, in the south, floods brought on by heavy seasonal rains in May have affected over half a million people, the majority of them women.
The total quantity of rainfall received during the first two months of the season is the highest on the 1981-2017 record. FEWS NET, FSNAU and UN-OCHA estimate that over 700,000 people have been impacted by the ongoing floods and will need livelihoods support through September, roughly 300,000 of whom are likely to need emergency food assistance.
Tropical Cyclone Sagar (“The Sea” in Hindi) was the strongest cyclone ever recorded in Somalia, bringing winds of more than 120 km per hour and as much rain as usually falls in the course of a year.
Lives, crops and livestock were lost, and homes and infrastructure destroyed. Following three years of drought, the ground is almost completely devoid of vegetation making it particularly prone to flash flooding.
Devastating floods across South Central Somalia have affected more than 582,000 people, over half of them internally displaced before the rains and already enduring deplorable conditions. Lives have been lost; homes, businesses and infrastructure destroyed; and communities displaced. Livelihoods, already vulnerable after years of drought, have washed away. With forecasts of more heavy rains in the next 3-4 weeks, aid agencies including CARE are preparing for a large scale response.
“This is a triple tragedy for the people of Somalia: drought, floods and, now, the worst cyclone ever to hit the region. If these rains continue, it will seriously undermine any hope of immediate recovery in Somalia”, says Fred McCray, acting Country Director for Somalia.
The United Nations estimates more than 669,000 people have been affected in Somaliland, 700 farms destroyed, 80 per cent of livestock in affected areas killed, and hundreds of fishing boats lost. Figures are expected to increase once areas become accessible. In Puntland, flash flooding has damaged IDP settlements, homes, and farmlands. Damage to roads has cut off communities, including the major centres of Bossaso and Garowe.
As is so often the case when disaster strikes, the poor and vulnerable are the most affected including households headed by women, people living IDP settlements before the rains began, the aged and the sick. Many have lost everything.
With so many roads damaged or destroyed, access to clean drinking water, sanitation, health, education and food is severely compromised. Trade routes have been disrupted and aid agencies fear an increase in the price of essential commodities in the coming weeks and months. With flooding increasing the risks of water borne disease, outbreaks of cholera, malaria, amoeba and dysentery remain a concern.
The immediate needs for affected communities are food assistance, tents/tarpaulins, household items, bedding, safe drinking water, water purification items, latrines, sanitary items for women and adolescent girls, and nutrition support for children, pregnant and lactating women. Awareness raising about Sexual and Gender Based Violence, as well as referrals for treatment and trauma counselling for survivors is also needed.
CARE is responding through our existing programming with local partners including providing unconditional cash assistance to 900 households; the distribution of 600 hygiene kits containing sanitary items; and the distribution of 360,000 sachets of aqua tabs. Through local radio, CARE is conducting hygiene promotion campaigns and recruiting community based volunteers to spread hygiene messages among communities. CARE is also conducting large scale testing of water quality in flood prone areas, and local authorities on water quality testing. CARE also plans to deliver non-food items such as hygiene kits, clean water, Water bladders for temporary storage, and to support people with cash assistance to cover their most pressing needs after the cyclone.