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Somalia floods devastate communities

© UNICEF video
This child is one of 300,000 people affected by flooding in Somalia.

By David McKenzie

JOWHAR, Somalia, 6 December 2006  Central and Southern Somalia have experienced widespread flooding that has affected over 300,000 people in recent weeks. It has destroyed villages, killed livestock and pushed people to the margins of existence.

Yet less than a year ago, these regions were bone dry. Displaced people sought shelter in hastily assembled camps across the regions to get assistance from devastating droughts.

“It is a diabolical twist of nature,” says UNICEF’s Senior Programme Officer for Somalia, Siddharth Chatterjee. “There are challenges of food security, challenges of displacement, and what ominously hangs over all of Central South Somalia is a conflict.”

An entire village inundated

Because of the conflict, it has been difficult for humanitarian agencies to get in and out of the area for months. On a visit to Jowhar by one of the first UN planes allowed in from Kenya, it was clear that the population is suffering.

© UNICEF video
UNICEF recently rehabilitated this school in Somalia, but now it’s underwater due to recent flooding.

In Garash village, near Jowhar, an entire community was inundated by floodwaters spilling over from the Shabelle River. After eight hours of rain locally, and extensive rains in the Ethiopian highlands, the deluge was too much for the rivers to hold. Villagers described chaotic scenes as they gathered what they could and rushed to higher ground.

Now they find themselves in a camp called Congo. Their hastily erected shelters of sisal and sheeting are a far cry from the substantial homesteads of Garash.

Even the village chief has been left with almost nothing. “I only had goats before the floods,” says Nur Mohamud Dhegey. “I lost almost all of my livestock. There was no time, we had to flee. What should I take – my children or my goats?”

Major threat of malaria

Two people from Garash died in the floods, and the survivors have little left to eat. The areas surrounding Jowhar should be filled with corn, sorghum and rice plantations, but many of the fields are waterlogged and the corn hangs limp from its stalks.

Standing water is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, and malaria has become a major threat. “My mother got malaria and then other sicknesses. Now she is getting sicker,” says one of the displaced villagers, Amina Ali Abdi. “We are stuck here in the heat and we need assistance.”

Some families have received bed nets to prevent malaria, but more help is needed.




6 December 2006:
UNICEF Correspondent David McKenzie reports on the floods that have devastated Central and Southern Somalia.
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6 December 2006:
Senior Programme Officer Siddharth Chatterjee tells UNICEF Radio about the devastating floods in Somalia.
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