Over 150,000 Somalians fled homes since June due to flooding: UN

Locals wade through a flooded street after bursting of a river in Beledweyne, central Somalia, May 17, 2020. (Xinhua/Hassan Bashi)
Locals wade through floodwater after bursting of a river in Beledweyne, central Somalia, May 17, 2020. (Xinhua/Hassan Bashi)

More than 150,000 Somalians have fled their homes since June due to flash and riverine flooding in the southern regions of this Horn of Africa nation, a UN spokesman said Friday.

“In Somalia, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said today that more than 150,000 people have fled their homes since late June – including 23,000 in the last week alone – due to flooding in the southern parts of the country,” Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told journalists at a virtual press briefing.

“Somalia has experienced extreme flooding this year, with more than 650,000 people across the country having been displaced by heavy rains since the start of the year,” he said.

“Many of the newly displaced are now living in overcrowded, makeshift shelters. Food is in short supply and many are going hungry,” the spokesman added.

“Sanitary conditions are poor and access to medical care remains scarce. While there has been no reported major COVID-19 outbreak, testing remains extremely limited and congestion and unsanitary conditions are risks for wide-spread transmission,” Haq added.

The spokesman said that UNHCR has been providing blankets and plastic sheets, among other items, as well as cash to thousands of affected families.

“UNHCR is calling for urgent international support. So far, the agency has received just 33 percent of the 154 million U.S. dollars needed for its humanitarian efforts in Somalia,” he said.

The surging flooding and displacement take place against the backdrop of Somalia’s ongoing fight to curtail the spread of COVID-19, which has a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable, including the displaced, said UNHCR, while urging landlords in the country to uphold a moratorium on evictions in these extremely challenging circumstances.

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