News / Africa

Rainy Season May Not Bring Relief to Horn of Africa

An internally displaced Somali woman holds her malnourished child inside their temporary home in Hodan district, south of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, September 20, 2011.
An internally displaced Somali woman holds her malnourished child inside their temporary home in Hodan district, south of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, September 20, 2011.

While meteorologists expect above-average rains in drought-stricken areas of the Horn of Africa this season, this might not be such good news for displaced people.  Aid agencies say the rainy season could spread disease and cause a spike in death rates among vulnerable populations.  

The World Meteorological Organization has said normal to above-average rainfall is expected in the areas of southern Somalia and Kenya that have been suffering from the worst drought in 60 years.

The news is a welcome relief for farmers who lost crops and livestock after the complete failure of the last two rainy seasons.

But, aid agencies are concerned that the rains will initially bring more suffering for populations displaced and weakened by drought and famine.

Astrid Sehl is a political advisor for the Norwegian Refugee Council, which works in Somalia and in the refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya.

"We are extremely concerned for the first days and weeks into the next rain season because we know that the risk for disease spreading will increase, we know that children now who are severely malnourished will be very vulnerable to diseases like cholera, for instance, and diarrhea and we are afraid that many more children will die when the rain comes," said Sehl.

The United Nations estimates that nearly one-third of all Somalis, nearly 2.5 million people, have been displaced from their homes, a large portion of them this year.

Many of those who relocated within Somalia are lacking even the most basic shelter.  Outbreaks of cholera and measles have already been reported in makeshift camps.

Andy Needham, a Nairobi-based spokesperson for the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, says this is a dangerous situation, as aid workers learned from the last famine nearly 20 years ago.

"What our colleagues are telling us is that they were caught unprepared back in '92, and that when the rains came they had a very significant adverse affect on the state of the camps in terms of the shelter and also it had a knock-on effect in terms of the increased levels of hypothermia and increased levels of infant mortality, especially among the under-five," said Needham.

UNHCR is stepping up efforts to provide emergency assistance to internally displaced people in Somalia.  Needham says the agency has already reached about 200,000 people with packages that include plastic sheeting, blankets, basic cooking equipment and soap.

There are also major concerns at the overcrowded Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, which are hosting over 450,000 refugees, including 160,000 Somalis who fled there this year

Hassan Bashir, who lives at the Hagadera camp in Dadaab, says rains cause widespread problems every year.

"We'll see a lot of floods affecting the blocks and also the food distributions, especially Ifo, because it has soft ground, whereby the floods go through to the stores where WFP and CARE, they keep food for the refugees.  Also houses will also break because of the heavy floods and also because of the heavy weather, these are the conditions which will arise," he said.

Bashir says even the solid homes that some refugees live in, which are made of mud brick, have been known to collapse in heavy rain, sometimes killing the residents inside.

Conditions are even worse for the thousands of refugees living on the outskirts of the camps in shelters made of sticks.

The rains are expected to start in the coming weeks.  But U.N. experts say it will take at least two successful cycles of rain, planting and harvests before the Horn can fully recover from the drought.

That means the region may not see true relief from the food crisis until at least August of next year.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs