‘Once-in-a-century’ flood disaster strikes Somalia: Over 450 000 displaced, 1.2 million affected and 32 fatalities reported

'Once-in-a-century' flood disaster strikes Somalia: Over 450 000 displaced, 1.2 million affected and 32 fatalities reported

In a dramatic shift from drought to deluge, Somalia is experiencing unprecedented flooding described as a ‘once-in-a-century’ event by the UN. This natural disaster, exacerbated by El Niño and the Indian Ocean Dipole, has put approximately 1.6 million people at risk, with over 1.24 million already affected. The nation faces a severe humanitarian challenge as it contends with the aftermath of these extreme weather conditions.

Somalia is currently experiencing what the United Nations has termed a “once-in-a-century” flooding event, following a historic drought. This natural disaster has uprooted hundreds of thousands of people not only in Somalia but also in neighboring East African countries​​.

As of November 14, 2023, heavy rains and floods have impacted over 1.24 million people and displaced over 456 800 in Somalia. At least 32 fatalities have been reported, with the majority of those affected residing in the South West State​​​​.

'Once-in-a-century' flood disaster strikes Somalia: Over 450 000 displaced, 1.2 million affected and 32 fatalities reported
Image credit: UN OCHA

The situation is compounded by the fact that camps for people displaced by an Islamist insurgency and the worst drought in four decades have also been flooded, forcing people to flee a second time.

The United Nations and its partners estimate that up to 1.6 million people could be affected by flooding during the current Deyr rainy season.

Additionally, around 1.5 million ha (3.7 million acres) of farmland are potentially at risk of destruction​​​​.

Humanitarian agencies, led by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), have scaled up assistance to help the affected population. However, the ongoing El Niño phenomenon risks further increasing humanitarian needs in already vulnerable communities. Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, emphasized the need to get ahead of these looming crises​​​​.

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YouTube video

The severe weather conditions are attributed to the combined impact of two climate phenomena: El Niño and the Indian Ocean Dipole.

The IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) has forecasted very heavy to extremely heavy rainfall in southern Somalia, with likely riverine and flash flooding from November 14 to 21. The Bay region in South West State, parts of Somaliland, and Galmudug State are expected to experience particularly heavy rains​​.


1 Once-in-a-century flooding swamps Somalia after historic drought -UN – Reuters – November 10, 2023

2 Somalia: Deyr rainy season 2023 Flash Update No. 7 (14 November 2023) – OCHA – November 14, 2023

Featured image credit: Earth42morrow (stillshot)


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