The UN refugee agency reports heavy rains and flooding in parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia are causing havoc among thousands of displaced Somalis in the region. The UNHCR says flood-damaged roads are hampering relief efforts to thousands affected by the heavy rains.
More than 12 million people in the Horn of Africa are facing hunger and famine due to the worst drought to hit the region in 60 years.
The heavy rains in parts of the region are bringing some welcome relief to drought-hit areas. At the same time, they are creating a disaster of another sort.
For instance, in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, the UN refugee agency reports the rains have flooded the shelters of nearly 3,000 people in a camp for displaced people. It says heavy downpours also have disrupted the transport system and slowed the pace of people fleeing their homes.
Nevertheless, UNHCR spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, says some people continue to leave.
“In the last week, more than 2,200 people have moved from Afgooye corridor and Daynile north of Mogadishu, to areas south of the capital in Banadir district," said Mahecic. "Some say they fled due to general insecurity, while others were trying to return to their home areas in anticipation of deteriorating security.”
The rains also have not deterred Somalis desperate to escape war and famine from seeking refuge in Ethiopia. The UNHCR reports more refugees arrived in Ethiopia’s Dollo Ado area last month than in the previous two months.
It says more than 8,800 Somalis arrived in October, making it the fourth highest number of arrivals this year.
In the meantime, UNHCR spokesman Mahecic says some 5,000 refugees in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex have lost their homes to the floodwaters. He says UNHCR and its partners have moved them to dryer parts of the camps, providing them with blankets and sleeping mats.
“The rains have also hampered road access in some parts of the camp and damaged some latrines. We are seeing a worrying rise in the number of watery diarrhea cases and a general deterioration of the health situation among refugees, with some 600 people approaching the health centers on a daily basis," he added. "As part of efforts to prevent disease outbreak, we have started awareness campaigns to encourage refugees to wash their hands, boil water for drinking and basically drink only safe water.”
Mahecic notes fewer refugees are arriving in Dadaab due to the rains and growing insecurity in the Kenya-Somalia border area.
The UNHCR reports an estimated 330,000 Somalis fleeing drought and insecurity have sought refuge in Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen and Djibouti so far this year. It says the recent rains are unlikely to ease the famine, unless people can resume farming in a secure environment.