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Somalia: Floods force nearly quarter of a million to flee

May 17, 2023

Heavy seasonal rains have caused flashfloods in central Somalia. The UN says up to 250,000 people have been displaced.

Men walk through floodwaters on a street in the town of Beledweyne
The UN estimates that 460,000 people have been affected by flooding caused by heavy rains since mid-MarchImage: AP/picture alliance

Heavy flooding in central Somalia has forced almost a quarter of a million people to flee their homes according to the government.

The Shabelle river which runs through the town of Beledweyne burst its banks and submerged the town after heavy rain.

"At once the entire city was underwater. Beledweyne itself became like an ocean," shopkeeper Ahmed Nur told Reuters news agency.

Hundreds of thousands flee

The Somali Disaster Management Agency said the floods in Beledweyne alone have caused the displacement of more than 245,000 people.

These figures are backed up by the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) which said that since mid-March the floods have affected more than 460,000 across the country and killed 22.

"Initial estimates indicate that the flash and riverine floods across Somalia have affected at least 460,470 people, of whom nearly 219,000 have been displaced from their homes mainly in flood-prone areas, and 22 killed," the OCHA said on Tuesday. 

The region has been in the grip of a severe drought with last year being the third consecutive year where the East African and Horn of Africa regions did not receive enough rain. When seasonal rain did eventually fall, flashflooding ensued.

According to the UN, the drought coupled with violence and food insecurity caused the deaths of up to 43,000 people.

The OCHA says that while the rains are replenishing water sources and enabling plants to grow again, recovery from six consecutive poor rainy seasons will take time.

kb/jcg (Reuters, AFP)