Kenya: UN warns El Nino to hit Somalia worse than famine

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - Heavy rains leading to an El Nino climate event will affect nearly a million people in Southern Somalia, leading to a humanitarian crisis worse than the 2011 drought that attracted worldwide attention, UN officials warned Thursday.

Hussein Gadain, Technical Advisor at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Water and Land Information Management Unit, said above normal rains put the lives of 900,000 people in Southern Somalia at risk of severe flooding when the rains begin later this year.

“While some countries experience depressed rains during El Niño events, Somalia experiences heavier rainfall amounts that usually lead to flooding that may cause  diseases, death and destruction of property and infrastructure,” Gadain said in a statement.

The much higher than normal rains is expected to hit the region in September 2015, resulting from the El Niño climate phenomenon, which the UN experts warn could reverse many of the humanitarian and development gains made in southern parts of Somalia since the 2011 famine.

The 2011 famine in Somalia is estimated to have caused the death of 260,000 people, mostly as a result of rising food prices, failed rains and the effect of the political crisis in Somalia.

“If El Niño conditions materialize an estimated population of 900,000 people living in the riverine areas of the Juba and Shabelle Rivers inside Somalia are likely to be affected by the floods,” said Gadain.

El Niño, a warming of sea-surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean, occurs every few years. It is linked to heavy rainfall in East Africa and drought-like conditions in the Horn of Africa region.

The scale of impact varies, but experts from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization warn that this year's El Niño could match the intensity of recent severe El Niño weather events, including the 1997-98 weather patterns which left large parts of southern Somalia underwater and killed 2,000 people.

Somalia has seen steady improvement of its food security situation since 2011 when African leaders met in Addis Ababa to make aid pledges to help deal with the famine which hit the East African region.

However, over 731,000 people are still estimated to be severely food insecure, requiring urgent humanitarian assistance and livelihood support, according to FAO’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia (FSNAU).

FAO officials said the early warnings have spurred people into action.  

“We all learnt the importance of converting early warning into effective early action following the devastating 2011 famine,” said Richard Trenchard, the head of FAO in Somalia.  

“We welcome the commitment of a number of governments, including the United Kingdom and the United States, to make resources available or allow humanitarian partners – including FAO – to begin planning for possible heavy flooding soon after the first warnings appear."
-0- PANA AO/VAO 20Aug2015

20 august 2015 15:24:16

xhtml CSS