Somalia is no stranger to floods and droughts — or to the crop failure and hunger that they bring. In 2011, more than 250,000 people died of famine while in 2017 a lack of rain caused widespread hunger and loss of animals, leaving over 6m people food insecure.
Recurrent floods and droughts have also destroyed houses and livelihoods, leaving people without shelter or incomes. Last year 4.2 million people needed humanitarian assistance and this number has risen to 5.2 million in 2020.
Climate change is making these natural disasters worse. In response, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has helped set up the Drought Operations Coordination Center in Garowe, which issues warnings to communities facing flooding and droughts, particularly farmers and herders.
Abdullahi Abdirahman, General Manager of Puntland’s Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Agency (HADMA), which runs the centre, explains what happens when they get advance notice of a flood: “We send warnings to communities living by streams and in low-laying areas and raise awareness through radio, TV and SMS messages.”
In 2017, when floods came to Qarxis village, about 60km from Garowe, the system saved lives.
“We received a message from HADMA on our mobile phones,” says Jama Mohamed Elmi, an elderly resident of Qarxis.
The message warned of severe floods and advised people living by streams to relocate to high ground to protect themselves and their livestock. HADMA also used vehicles mounted with loudspeakers to announce incoming flash floods to communities living in low-laying areas and valleys.
“All the communities in the rural areas were gripped by fear of the unknown,” remembers Jama, who had to stay on high ground for weeks before the water receded and it was safe to go home.
Fishermen in Jama’s village are also warned whenever hurricanes are likely to make the sea unsafe.
UNDP’s support for the drought centre has been made possible thanks to funding from the Global Environment Facility’s Least Development Countries Fund, which also supports other projects in Somalia to help farmers facing the effects of climate change, including water managements systems and reservoirs for people in drought-prone areas.
For more on this project and UNDP/GEF’s other work on climate change adaptation see: https://undp-climate.exposure.co/cca-somalia-gef