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Severe Flooding in Somalia Claims Lives and Displaces Hundreds of Thousands

Somalia is grappling with a severe humanitarian crisis as heavy rains since the beginning of November have led to widespread flooding, claiming at least 31 lives and displacing approximately 500,000 people, according to Information Minister Daud Aweis. The situation is dire, particularly in the Gedo region in the south and the Hiran region in the center of the country, where the Shabelle River burst its banks, causing extensive damage to homes and infrastructure. The UN humanitarian agency, OCHA, has characterized the flooding as “once in a century,” emphasizing the unprecedented scale of the disaster.

The impact of the flooding is exacerbated by the simultaneous occurrence of two climate phenomena, El Nino and the Indian Ocean Dipole. El Nino is known to bring increased global heat, leading to drought in some regions and heavy rainfall in others. The Indian Ocean Dipole is a climate system influenced by temperature differences in the ocean’s western and eastern parts. The combined effects of these phenomena have resulted in torrential rains and severe flooding in Somalia.

The flooding has been particularly devastating due to the compromised state of the soil, resulting from a recent and unprecedented drought. Years of conflict and the presence of the militant group al Shabaab further complicate efforts to build flood defenses and enhance resilience in affected areas.

The situation is not limited to Somalia, as neighboring countries, including Kenya and Ethiopia, are also grappling with the consequences of heavy rains. In Kenya, the death toll stands at 15, according to the Kenya Red Cross. Additionally, Ethiopia’s Somali region has reported over 20 casualties due to the rains.

The Horn of Africa, already considered one of the regions most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events, is facing a compounding crisis. Climate analysts emphasize that the flooding is a result of complex factors, including climatic phenomena and local challenges, highlighting the urgent need for coordinated and sustained humanitarian responses.

As the floodwaters continue to wreak havoc in the region, the international community faces the challenge of providing timely and effective assistance to those affected, addressing immediate needs, and supporting long-term resilience-building efforts in the face of a changing climate.

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