UNICEF Geneva Palais Briefing note on the impact of flooding in Somalia on children and families and UNICEF’s response
This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF Somalia Representative, Wafaa Saeed, to whom quoted text may be attributed - at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva
GENEVA/MOGADISHU, 30 May 2023 – “In September last year, I appeared here to brief you on the devastating impact that the drought in Somalia was having on children and families. Somalia had gone through five consecutive seasons of failed rains and was facing a sixth season.
"A declaration of famine, which was predicted last year, and would have been a confirmation of our worst fears for children, has thankfully been averted.
"However, and in a bitter yet perhaps unexpected irony, the arrival of the rains has brought misery for many children and families. Flooding this year has already displaced more than 400,000 people. Humanitarian partners now predict that should heavy rains continue in Somalia and in the Ethiopian highlands through the current Gu season, flash and riverine floods could affect up to 1.6 million people.
"Last week, I was in a town called Beletweyne in the Hiran region where flooding has displaced almost 90 per cent of the residents. Families displaced by the floods have limited access to necessities such as food, safe water, and shelter. I met some of them currently living in temporary shelters, they told me that they are used to flooding but never to this scale or severity. Their houses and latrines were damaged, schools and health facilities were closed, they lost their daily incomes, and some are now restoring to skipping meals or seeking loans from shops.
"Around 12 villages are completely isolated and can only be reached by boat. Local government and agencies including UNICEF, are already providing support, yet the level of needs is much higher.
"With so much suffering dominating global headlines, the world’s attention has been diverted, and this will be at the expense of children in countries such as Somalia. While we are approaching June, the Somalia Humanitarian response plan is only 26 per cent funded. The Water, Hygiene & Sanitation Cluster of the plan is about 11 per cent funded, thus threatening the provision of safe water and sanitation at a time of high risk of an outbreak of diseases such as cholera and malaria.
"So, what does the situation in Somalia tell us?
"First: it tells us that Somalia’s story – and the challenge facing a generation of children growing up in the country - is not simply about droughts or floods, it is a climate emergency. Communities in Somalia contributed the least to climate change, yet they are suffering the most. The droughts and floods are becoming more frequent and more severe and have eroded people’s coping mechanisms.
"Second: Humanitarian funding must be frontloaded and flexible to address immediate lifesaving needs and go beyond that to strengthen the resilience of communities. Humanitarian funding must also be accompanied by investments in long-term solutions and localization. The international community needs to help Somalia access climate financing, to invest in livelihoods and promote climate adaptation, to give communities the chance to break out of this spiral of one humanitarian crisis after another. National partners – the government, and local NGOs, - must be at the forefront of the response because they are the first responders and have better access to people in need.
"Third: it shows us that, however challenging it may be, success in Somalia is possible. Although initially slow to respond, the international community came to Somalia’s aid when famine threatened to upend the country and reverse years of painstaking work. Aid organizations stepped up their efforts and famine was averted. There are moral -and strategic- imperatives to sustain that success.
"Now is the time for the international community to sustain the support, to scale up the support, not to switch off. Somalia and other countries in this region are just one failed rainy season away from another human catastrophe – and one that will, once again, be measured in children’s lives and children’s futures.”