Nairobi, 22 December, 2006 - Hundreds of thousands of people are at risk in Somalia's flooded crisis areas because of severe water shortages, internal displacement, food insecurity and the threat of escalating violence, according to international aid agency, Oxfam.
Over 21,745 acres of land are currently submerged and the flooding has displaced more than 450,000 Somalis in the southern and central regions.
Many areas are still cut off and some villages and displaced people have been unable to receive food, clean drinking water or sanitation assistance.
The unseasonably heavy rains that have triggered the current flooding are expected to last into January of 2007.
The current floods in southern Somalia reached record flooding levels last week with meteorologists predicting a possible continuation of the exceptional rainfall well into December and January. The floods crisis follows short on a regional drought and livelihoods crisis that hit the Horn of Africa early this year after four consecutive failed rainy seasons.
Oxfam has been working closely with six key local organizations in Somalia as part of Oxfam International's response to the disaster. One partner - The "Women Care Organization" (WOCA) has started a program to support over 4,000 people in the Middle Shabelle Region of southern Somalia. The displaced - most are farmers - are getting cash money in return for participating in joint community projects, such as erecting or fortifying water dykes along the Shabelle River.
"In areas where similar work has been done in the past, we see much more limited flooding than in places without such dykes," said Mohamed Abdulle Mahdi of WOCA. The cash payments will enable around 730 vulnerable households to buy the basic necessities that are locally available in the markets, but which are currently beyond the financial reach of the affected population.
Often in humanitarian crisis, the prices of basic commodities rise dramatically. By providing cash, basic goods of their own choice can be bought by the families and local markets can keep functioning.
Other Oxfam partner organizations in the region, such as Horn Relief, Humanitarian Action for Relief and Development Organization (HARDO), and the Center for Education and Development (CED), have also started up similar operations with food distributions in areas where food is not locally available. Medical supplies, mosquito nets, and non food items (household utensils etc, ) are also distributed.
The Oxfam affiliates have an amount of $1.5m made available to further support ongoing flood related work The UN recently launched a flood response appeal for $18 millon. Total needs for the flood response amount to around $28.6 million, of which around $10.4 million has already been sourced through the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). A Flood Response Plan appealing for the remaining $18.2 million was put to donors on 6 December in Geneva.