As soon as I land in Beledweyne town, Hiraan region of Somalia, I’m reminded of my last trip. It seems like yesterday when I flew here to support the Save the Children team on the ground helping children and their families affected by floods. In fact it was just two months ago, in June when the floods hit the same community, leaving a devasting impact on thousands of people in this region. I’m here again for the same crisis, same mission.
I visit the area near the airport where families, fleeing their homes because of the latest floods, have set up temporary shelter. Here I’m welcomed by hordes of blue and orange make shift tents. This is now a home to thousands of families who have been living here for the last few days as River Shabelle started to overflow. Here I meet 35-year-old Halwo. In her hands she cuddles a new addition to her family—a 10-day old baby trying to keep him warm and protected from the gushing winds. This breaks my heart.
“The last twelve months have been difficult for me and my family. It’s the third time we are forced to flee our home because of the floods. This time around, it’s even harder than the previous occasions. We didn’t get time to recover before we are hit again,” says Halwo
Halwo, a mother of nine (one girl and eight boys), aged between sixteen years and ten-days old, is among thousands of newly displaced people in Beledweyne town. This time around the raging waters of the river Shebelle has affected more than 24,000 households, destroyed hectares of farmland and people’s livelihoods. Halwo and her family escaped the fast approaching flood waters just in time before it reached their home. Now, the family have setup camp on higher grounds close to the airport in a make shift hut, with just a few things they have salvaged from their home.
“Life for us was difficult before the floods. My husband is unable to work due to his medical conditions [He has a severe Femoral Hernia]. I was the sole breadwinner for my family. Now all that is gone. As a family, we eat one meal a day and we are prioritizing the younger children,”
says Halwo with a look of despair in her eyes.
Halwo earns her living mainly by washing other people’s clothes. On a good day, she would make $3-5 which barely covers the basic needs. Now, the family has no source of income. They have been depending on what they receive from relatives and well-wishers.
Hamda*, sixteen, is the eldest of Halwo’s children. Before the family were forced to flee their home, she was happy and in school. “Due to COVID-19, the government closed our school for five months. Just as our school reopened, floods have forced our school to shut down once again, disrupting our education, ” says Hamda. Students and teachers alike have been forced to flee to higher grounds.
Somalia is experiencing third consecutive flood in the last nine months affecting about 919,000 people, of whom 412,000 have been displaced and 24 killed in 29 districts of Somalia. Belet Weyne town in Hiraan region was the most affected district after the Shabelle river burst its banks on 12 May, inundating 85 per cent of Belet Weyne town and 25 riverine villages. According to the district flood taskforce, about 240,000 people were displaced from the town and neighbouring villages. Currently, flooding has already displaced 24, 000 households in Hiiran alone, and about 200,000 people in Afgooye district of lower Shabelle.
Life-saving interventions are urgently needed including clean water, shelter, food, health and hygiene services. Save the Children’s emergency response teams are already on the ground working with the Government of Somalia and other humanitarian partners to ensure affected children and their families are protected while displaced.
“We must invest more in flood prevention measures across the country, especially in the flood prone areas. We cannot be just be saving lives by responding to the same crisis over and over again. Something must change,” says Ahmed Omar, Save the Children’s Representative for Southern States.
Source: Save the Children