Since making landfall in Somaliland last Saturday 19 May, the tropical cyclone Sagar has left an entire year’s worth of rain - between 150 and 200mm according to FAO-Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) – in some parts of the north. One of the strongest storms ever recorded in Somalia produced wind gusts of up to 102 km/per hour, according to the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System, causing fatalities, flash floods, destruction of farms, infrastructures and livestock, and displacement.
In Somaliland, Awdal and Woqooyi Galbeed regions were the worst-hit areas. Some roads are gradually becoming accessible and will facilitate the work of authorities and humanitarian partners to assess the impact and respond. But many communities and villages, especially in the Lughaya district of Awdal region, are still isolated by the floodwater and can only be reached by helicopter, two of which were supplied to the Somaliland authorities by the UAE shortly after the storm passed.
In Puntland, another tropical storm that formed in the northern Indian Ocean could skirt the coastal areas of the Bari region. While the impact is expected to be much lower than that caused by the cyclone, the areas are still feeling the effects of Sagar and further flash flooding is possible. The second, unnamed storm also poses an immediate threat to the shipping lane that links Somalia and trading partners in the Gulf states and beyond.
The overall situation is compounded by the ongoing conflict in Sool and Sanaaga regions. As the result of clashes in Tukaraq town, Sool region, since 15 May, a reported 2,200 households, mainly women and children, fled their homes, leaving behind their assets. The Puntland Ministry of Security reportedly imposed restrictions on civilian and public transport movement between Garowe and Laascaanood since 21 May, a measure that will potentially further restrict the capacity of humanitarians to respond. The region has been affected by drought since 2015, undermining the coping mechanisms of the population. Renewed fighting involving heavy artillery was reported on the morning of 24 May.
Humanitarian impact and needs
Although the full extent of the cyclone Sagar impact is still unknown, the confirmed figures show the high level of destruction left by the storm in its wake. In Somaliland, the Government estimates put the number of people affected near 670,000, including hundreds of thousands of children. According to the authorities, Lughaya district of Awdal, with a combined population of just over 100,000 people, is the most affected zone. Zaylac district, in the same region, with an estimated population of 77,000 people, was also seriously affected and, just like Lughaya, have been cut off from transport and communications by the cyclone. At least 25 people have been killed, 12 injured and 27 are missing, according to the disaster management authority NADFOR. The death toll is expected to rise further. NADFOR also informed that 32 fishermen on board of the 10 small boats that had been reported missing at sea out of Laasqoray, in Sanaag, have been rescued.
The winds and floods had a severe impact on the livestock and farms, and also damaged key infrastructure, such as schools, ports, roads and airstrips, and washed away many shelters in IDP settlements. Supply stores and food markets have been damaged and in some cases washed away. The government estimates that at least 80 per cent of livestock in some of the most affected areas were killed and some 700 farms have been devastated. Livestock and farming are the main sources of livelihoods for the pastoralist families in the area, and its situation, worsened by the access challenges, could put thousands of lives at risk, particularly those already facing food insecurity. Priority needs include food, shelter and other non-food items.
In Puntland, authorities have reported significant damage to homes, farms, fishing boats, infrastructure and livestock losses. Two people were reported killed, according to local partners. Flash flooding destroyed latrines and other infrastructures in the IDP settlement in Qardho, and devastated farms in Iskushuban, both in Bari region. The impact of the recent storm has worsened a severe humanitarian situation in the region. Due to the drought, the levels of food insecurity were already high, and the Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Agency (HADMA) appealed for urgent aid for over 600,000 drought-affected people in February 2018. The potential exists for more displacement and waterborne diseases are predicted by humanitarian partners working in Puntland.
Humanitarian coordination and response
Humanitarians and authorities are working on the response, while assessments are still taking place in the affected zones. With the Humanitarian Response Plan extremely underfunded – only 25 per cent of the 1.5 billion requested has been made available – the capacity partners to respond is limited and more funding is urgently necessary.
In Somaliland, bilateral support is also being provided to the affected populations, including by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Two military helicopters have been deployed to Somaliland by the UAE. The vice-president Abdirahman Abdilaahi Ismail was provided a helicopters by Djiboutian authorities immediately after the storm to survey the isolated districts of Zaylac and Lughaya in Awdal region. Some of the people who needed emergency medical assistance were evacuated. According to the Office of the President, the UAE cargo helicopters are available to humanitarian organisations to deliver assistance, which has negated the need to relocate additional helicopters to the area to ferry supplies.
The Ministry of Health has mobilise teams to evaluate those impacted and provide health services, Humanitarian partners are also prepositioning medical supplies and are carrying out daily detection and notification of possible epidemics using the electronic-based Early Warning Alert and Response System. In Sanaag, partners are organising the mobilisation of 100 water trucks and other 10 water bladders to provide clean and safe water to the population.
Somaliland government is providing ready-to-eat food to the people in need. Humanitarian partners are also preparing some 30,000 boxes of dates and 17,600 food baskets that will be soon delivered to the affected people.
Partners have also delivered non-food Items to nearly 700 people in Berbera District, 1,800 people in Bulaxaar and 900 in Ceel Sheekh. Four big tents and plastic sheets will be provided for 1,000 families in Awdal region.
In the coming weeks, more than 10,000 families are expected to receive unconditional cash transfer from different humanitarian organisation in all affected regions.
Humanitarians and authorities will keep working on the assessments, response plan and activities, while monitoring the wake of the second tropical storm formed in the northern Indian Ocean.
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