By:: Katy Migiro
Somalilandsun – Tens of thousands of vulnerable Somalis have been left destitute after losing their homes and livestock in twin natural disasters, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday.
On Nov. 10, a cyclone struck the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland, killing at least 140 people and up to a million head of livestock. The government has declared a state of emergency.
Further south, the River Shabelle has flooded the town of Jowhar and surrounding areas.
“Hundreds of families have been rendered homeless and the economy – highly dependent on livestock farming – has been shattered through the loss of so many animals,” Abshir Omar Jama, who is coordinating the ICRC’s relief effort in Puntland, said in a statement.
High winds and heavy rains caused flash floods and cut off roads, making it difficult to deliver aid. “In some places, we had to swim across flooded roads to get to the affected areas,” Jama said.
The second disaster zone is Jowhar in Middle Shabelle. Some 10,000 people have fled the town because of flooding caused by two months of heavy rains in the highlands that feed the River Shabelle.
“They are living in wretched conditions,” the ICRC said.
On top of that, ethnic clashes have displaced 5,000 people, who are camped out near the airstrip 13 km north of Jowhar.
May Hazim, in charge of the ICRC’s water and sanitation programmes in Somalia, described conditions as “very difficult” as water sources have been contaminated, which could lead to water-borne diseases.
The ICRC is cleaning and upgrading wells and trucking water to the displaced.
Communities that were already finding it hard to feed themselves now face the threat of hunger. There is no longer famine in Somalia after four good rainy seasons, but 870,000 people – more than 20 percent of the population – still need food aid. One in six children are acutely malnourished.
“All the standing crops in the affected areas have been destroyed,” the ICRC said. “The farmers are now facing a severe food shortage with the loss of their harvest. Recovering from this economic shock will be a challenge for the community for a long time to come.”