Somalia

UN Assessment Mission reports back on Flood Situation along Somalia's Shabelle River

A UN flood assessment team Wednesday released the results of an aerial and ground survey of parts of southern Somalia, after unusually heavy rains recently swelled the Shabelle river to bursting point in at least one location.
The UN team -- with representatives from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme (WFP), UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), and World Health Organization (WHO), as well as partners in the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB) and partner aid agencies - travelled to the Lower Shabelle region Tuesday to assess the extent of flood damage reported.

Aerial imagery shows an area eight kilometers square in and around the village of Bombasso, about 45 kilometers southwest of Merka, was flooded, with water approximately 1.5 meters deep. Some surrounding fields were submerged, but if the flood recedes in the next week, people with fields under less water may still have a chance for their crops to grow.

About 600 to 700 families (3,500 people) from Bombasso were displaced. Many families had moved to higher ground while others were staying with relatives nearby. Displaced people have set up makeshift huts and many have managed to salvage some grain from household stores, as well as chickens, goats, vegetables and household belongings such as beds, pots and pans. The team saw some people crossing the flood water - between waist and shoulder high - to collect more of their belongings from their flooded homes.

The aerial survey identified at least two other areas along the Shabelle river which are vulnerable: Qoryooley (28 km northwest of Merka) and the village of Mubaahrak (25 kilometers north of Merka).

Heavy rains in recent weeks in Ethiopia have caused the Shabelle river to swell. It takes about 15 to 20 days for water from the Ethiopian highlands to reach the Shabelle river in southern Somalia. Since it has not been raining in Ethiopia for four days, there may be some respite from flooding, however, there could be a resurgence of the flood waters by next week.

While the flooding is not a wide-spread disaster, it is devastating for the people of Bombasso village. As a result of the assessment, the UN will implement the following action points:

1) The UN is providing essential supplies like water purification, mosquito netting, blankets, plastic sheeting, medical supplies (including anti-malarial and anti-diarrhoeal drugs), and possibly some food for work intervention to repair the broken river embankment

2) Rains from Ethiopia's highlands through to Belet Weyne in Somalia will be closely monitored to determine how much water will feed into the Shabelle river in the coming weeks

3) The UN and partner aid agencies will implement quick programs with communities along the river which will help communities repair weakened river embankments

4) The UN is discussing longer-term programs, including the dredging of the Shabelle river. Silt has built up in the Shabelle for years, and though river embankments have been built up, in some areas the river is actually higher than the surrounding plains, making conditions ripe for flooding.

NOTE: For exclusive aerial survey photos and maps of areas at risk along the Shabelle river in southern Somalia, please visit the UN Somalia website at www.unsomalia.org

This press release is jointly issued by UN agencies working in Somalia. For more information, please contact:

UN Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator's Office: Sonya Laurence Green, Tel: (254 2) 448434
Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU): Degan Ali, Tel: (254 2) 622930, 622929
World Food Programme (WFP): Semin Abdulla, Tel: (254 2) 622945, 622942
UN Children's Fund (UNICEF): Julia Spry-Leverton, Tel: (254 2) 623958, 623862
World Health Organization (WHO): Farah Dar, Tel: (254 2) 623197/8/9