UNHCR appeals for more relief aid to displaced Somalis

Sunday, August 9th, 2020 02:15 |
Locals wade through flood waters in Afgoye southwestern Somalia, Lower Shebelle region, Somalia. (Xinhua/Hassan Elmi)


The United Nations refugee agency on Friday called on the international community to support relief efforts in Somalia where floods have displaced more than 650,000 people since January.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it has received only 33 percent of the 154.4 million U.S. dollars needed for its humanitarian efforts in Somalia, including for about 2.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 30,000 refugees and asylum-seekers being hosted in the country.

"The latest floods point to a worrying pattern where extreme weather conditions are increasing in frequency and intensity," the UNHCR warned in a statement.

According to the UNHCR, more than 150,000 Somalis have been forced to flee their homes since late June, including some 23,000 in the last week alone, due to flash and riverine flooding in the southern regions of Somalia.

The UNHCR said its rapid assessments indicate that communities in Hirshabelle and South West states are amongst the worst hit, noting that the year has seen extreme flooding.

It said many of the newly displaced are now living in over-crowded, makeshift shelters constructed from old clothes, plastic bags, cardboard and sticks in already dire sites for the IDPs.

"Such shelter provides little protection from the harsh weather, and leaves families exposed to increased risk of crimes like robbery and rape," the UNHCR said, warning that more people risk being displaced as flooding is likely to continue in some regions.

According to the latest flood advisory report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the Shabelle River's water levels will continue to rise due to heavy rains.

Prior to June, flash floods and riverine flooding caused by seasonal rains already displaced more than 450,000 in Somalia.

"With floods in 2018 and 2019 displacing 281,000 and 416,000 persons respectively, the flood-based displacement figures demonstrate a rising year-to-year trend," the UNHCR said.

It said Somalia's re-occurring climate-related emergencies result in devastating impact on communities who heavily rely on farming and livestock for their livelihood.

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.

The UNHCR called on landlords in the country to uphold a moratorium on evictions in these extremely challenging circumstances.

The UN agency said food is in short supply and many are going hungry with rising malnutrition in children.

In some areas, basic food items, particularly milk and vegetables, have increased in price between 20 and 50 percent.

Health partners have warned of risk of diarrhoea, vector-borne diseases, respiratory-tract infections and other communicable diseases rapidly spreading among the displaced population.

"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," the UNHCR said. (Xinhua)

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