With the Shabelle River’s recent flooding claiming at least 10 lives in the town of Beletweyne in Somalia, those Somalis who are living downstream from Beletweyne are worried. Many believe that their communities may face similar flooding soon.
“The Deyr (seasonal) rains did not yet start and the river is (already) full,” said Ali, a resident of Afgooye. “When rain falls from the sky, it is the river where the rain water will end up. Now the river is full due to the heavy rains from upstream.”
The threat of flooding in Afgooye is so serious, that the Imam of the biggest mosque in town raised the issue of imminent floods during last Friday’s prayer sermon. Addressing his congregation, the Imam urged the community to contribute empty sand bags, in order to help areas that may be inundated.
“History may repeat itself,” a worried Ali says. “In 2007 we were alerted by community elders in Jowhar and Beledweyne of the imminent threat of floods, but no one listened to the alert until it was too late.” Back then in October of 2007, Afgooye was struck by its worst flood in decades. Floods from Shabelle River swept through many villages, destroying farm land and crop stores. Many small villages in the vicinity were completely cut off at the time. Hundreds of families fled their homes; more than 30 small villages in the area were affected.
Ali stated he was very concerned that the risk of flooding is high in coming weeks, since more rains are expected in Jowhar up river. Other riverine towns in the lower Shabelle region are also experiencing the same scenarios, with rivers already at full crest.
Ibrahim, a farmer from Afgooye District, agrees. “The water level of the Shabelle River in Afgooye District is projected to continue rising in the coming weeks, following the expected rains in Mid-October,” he said.
The SWALIM agency,(Somalia Water & Land Information Managaement) has stated in their October 1st update, “the currently observed river levels along the Shabelle River are high with a moderate risk of flooding in the lower reaches of the river.”
In addition to damages to farms and homes, flooding along the Shabelle River raises other health risks as well. In past years, floods have caused a rise in cases of Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD), which together with cholera has already killed 32 Somalis this year. Polluted waters also raise the threat of cholera. Flood waters in the past have also lead to an increase in mosquitos, causing a rise in local cases of malaria.
Waterborne disease is a major threat to health throughout Somalia, as more than half of all Somalis do not have access to clean water and sanitation.