Djibouti: Cyclone Sagar and Subsequent Flash Floods - Humanitarian Needs Assessment Report (27 May 2018)


Executive Summary

Tropical Cyclone Sagar made landfall in Djibouti on the 19-20 May and left a trail of widespread flooding, destruction of infrastructure, homes and livelihoods. With winds topping 90km per hour the tropical cyclone made landfall further west than any tropical storm in the 52 years of recorded storms in the North Indian Basin. An estimated 110mm of rain (the equivalent of one-year average) were recorded within one day in Djibouti city alone resulting heavy flooding. Other parts of the country were also affected, with limited consequences. Based on satellite imagery, about 50 per cent of Djibouti City, where an estimated 150,000 people live, was severely affected by flash floods and heavy rainfall.

The government estimates that some 50,000-10,000 families (25,000-50,000 people) were affected, according to field verification. Of particular concern is the event’s impacts at household level, particularly as 20.8 per cent of the population in Djibouti lives in a situation of extreme poverty and 35.3 per cent of global poverty 1 and many households has limited ability to cope with additional shocks.

Available information indicates major concerns among the population with regards to sanitation, food security and shelter, especially among the most disadvantaged families, those whose houses were flooded for several days, and ‘people on the move’ (e.g. refugees, migrants and IDPs).

Stagnant water is still visible one week after the event as the sewerage system is not able to absorb the floodwater and despite firefighter operations the water tends to return to some specific areas.

Despite the existence of a garbage collection system, observation during the flooding indicated a major problem with trash, and plastic in particular, some districts reported trash being disposed of and accumulating in front of houses. The presence of open latrines and practices of open defecation compounded the situation as faeces and other waste mixed with water as these facilities were flooded. This increases the risk of water and vector-borne diseases. Flooding and damages to infrastructure damages have been reported across the city by the heavy rains, wind and flooding.

Ministry of Education and UNICEF carried out an assessment of affected education facilities, indicating that 16 school buildings were also affected by flooding. Damages were mostly related to the compounds of the schools being flooded. All schools are cleared and cleaning has been carried out by the army. The learning of children was not reported to be affected by the cyclone, as students were on school holidays, however exams for 135,000 students had to be postponed for one week while the schools were cleared of water and cleaned. Two schools reportedly need some repairs. Five community development centres (CDC), - Quarter 7, Quarter 3, Arhiba, Hadji-Dideh, Wahle-Daba andStadium, which are supposed to be the point of reference for affected communities, registered also some damages because of the flooding.

Flooding affected primary and tertiary roads into the city, connecting Balbala suburb and Djibouti City. These have since receded and access has been restored. However, there were some road damages (particularly some unpaved roads) which level will require further assessment. The sewage systems remain clogged in in some areas where water has been pumped but is returning, as there are limited areas for surface water drainage to be diverted to. A communiqué has been issued by the Prime Minister establishing an ad-hoc committee chaired by the Director General of Civil Protection to urgently assess the zones of rainwater and use water evacuation systems in Djibouti Town.

Initial rapid assessments conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture indicate that the over 100 ‘gardens’ located along the Ouadi of Ambouli (in Attar; Damerjog; Douda; of Djibouti City) have been severely affected because of the flooding, directly affecting the livelihoods of over 500 people, including migrant workers. Prior to the flooding, the water table was accessible just below the dry bottom of the ouadi through a pump system; allowing for profitable horticulture along the riverbanks. Flash flooding destroyed the gardens and washed away plants, fruit trees, tools, motor pumps, animals (goats, chickens), damaged wells and water basins as well temporary housing used as sheds and living quarters for the workers.

Risk of environmental pollution following the cyclone is also of concern. Information available indicate that 500 square meters along the seashore located behind the Ministry of Agriculture premises were contaminated by oils which, combined with the low tide impacted the habitat where the fishery is located, killing many fishes as a result. Vulnerable groups highlighted by the social workers include children, widows, elderly and the disabled were cited in many districts to have limited mobility, and are unable to repair their damaged homes. An estimation of female-headed households is 15 per cent of the population (mostly widowed). Several districts including in Arhiba, Quarter 4, Quarter 6, Quarter 7, Ambouli, cite de Stade and Vietnam reported hosting refugee and migrant populations. Enguella 1 reported unaccompanied children at risk of insecurity, further assessments and support may be needed for these caseloads.

In several locations roads and electric systems have been damaged by the floods, and electricity has been cut off for fear of electrocution for few days. Within the districts, shortage of lighting around key areas was highlighted by several of the social workers as a key concern. The situation worsened by the flooding. Improved lighting in neighbourhoods would help to increase a sense of security at night.

An initial rapid assessment was undertaken on Saturday 26 May with the Secrétariat d’Etat aux Affaires Sociales (SEAS), through an interview process to assess the humanitarian needs of populations affected by Sagar. The following report outlines the key findings from the assessment and additional information stemming from Government sources and direct observation. Results indicate a particular concern for shelter and NFIs, food security, health and access to safe sanitation.

At the time of the assessment, 26 May, at least 1,865 shelters (9,350 people) had reported sustaining damages in town and 630 households (3,150 people) were still displaced as a result of the flooding. Most of them have returned home since. This figure is not definitive as it is possible that many families did not yet report their losses. Many reportedly lost household items in the floods and are now having to prioritize spending money for shelter repairs and/or replacing key household items. The damage to housing was of particular concern for vulnerable people, including widows, elderly and the disabled, which have limited ability to undertake shelter repairs.

People reported losing their official documents, including national identification cards and birth registration, property titles, etc. Personal documents, which provide proof of citizenship; obtaining employment; registering for school; and a prerequisite for applying for government benefits and access health services.

Many districts took in neighbours and those impacted by the flooding. Including Arhiba, Quarter 4 & 6 reported many families are hosting large number of those displaced as a result of the floods. In many districts, solidarity amongst the community was highlighted, with no discrimination reported.

All districts reported that the floodwaters were receding and the water level was medium to low. Stagnant water was reported in Vietnam quarter. However, in some neighbourhoods where water has been pumped out, the water is returning, as there are limited areas for surface water drainage to be diverted to.

Most district social workers reported a direct impact on the food security of affected people, with many districts reporting that there was less food available within affected families and that households have had to resort to negative coping mechanism such as relying on less expensive food, borrowing food and limiting the number of meals each day.

Sanitation facilities have been significantly flooded and damaged because of the Cyclone. Evidence of faecal contamination is visible in several districts and there is an increased risk of water-borne disease as a result. An increase in diarrheal diseases was being reported in two districts.

In Damerjog IDP camp, a located 13 km from Djibouti City, the 4,500 people living there were also heavily impacted by the cyclone.

There are special concerns for 43 vulnerable families with orphans and children with special needs. Assessment findings indicate that tents and other facilities were damaged during the rain. This group has limited access to employment opportunities, and this in turn increase risks of food insecurity. Health and access to water, low before the rains, has been further curtailed. Water collection points are insufficient for the population size. Safe sanitation was also cited as an issue for the population during the assessment.

Refugee villages in Ali Sabieh province were also affected to some degree. The road to HollHoll was damaged, so were some tents and water and sanitation facilities.