People are losing their homes, livestock and farmland to the flooding in the Horn of Africa.
Somalis are struggling to cope with never-before-seen flooding that has killed dozens of people and forced hundreds of thousands to abandon their homes, in the wake of extreme rainfall that has engulfed much of East Africa.
Following days of heavy torrents, at least 29 people have been killed and more than 300,000 have fled their homes for safety, Somalia’s National Disaster Management Agency (SoDMA) said on Wednesday, calling the phenomenon the most severe in “decades”.
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“What is going on today is the worst for decades,” said Hassan Isse, managing director of SoDMA.
“I do not remember such floods in my life,” said Mohamed Farah, a local elder in Baidoa city, in southwest Somalia. “People keep on evacuating looking for high ground.”
The extreme rain presents a new challenge for the Horn of Africa country, which is still reeling from a record drought that crippled its agriculture and killed as many as 43,000 people last year.
Now, Somali authorities are searching for thousands that may be stranded by the floodwater. At least 2,400 people have been cut off in Luuq town alone after the Jubba River burst its banks, the United Nations has warned.
“Our makeshift shelters are washing away. Children are missing now. We don’t know whether they are dead or alive”, Fadumo Abdulkadir, who is displaced by the flooding, told Al Jazeera.
The flooding in Somalia is part of a regional deluge linked to ongoing weather patterns known as El Nino and the Indian Ocean Dipole — which impact ocean surface temperatures and cause extreme rainfall, experts say.
“The impact of the flooding is much worse because the soil is so damaged from an unprecedented recent drought – years of conflict and al-Shabab militia’s presence also makes building flood defences and resilience more complex and costly”, said Nazanine Moshiri, a climate analyst at the International Crisis Group.
The phenomenon has sparked turmoil in neighbouring states Kenya and Ethiopia.
In Kenya, torrential downpours over the weekend killed at least 15 people, while destroying 97 hectares (240 acres) of farmland and wiping out more than 1,000 livestock animals, the Kenya Red Cross Society reported Sunday.
Thousands are also reportedly displaced in the Somali region of Ethiopia due to ongoing flooding.
Scientists say climate change is causing more intense and more frequent extreme weather events, with the Horn of Africa especially vulnerable.
“This cycle of flooding and drought is going to continue. And we’re going to see more and more of this unless we do something on a global scale,” Christophe Hodder, a climate security advisor at the United Nations Environment Programme told Al Jazeera.