Mohamed Kalil will be MSF’s humanitarian affairs advisor for Somalia in addition to also Somaliland. He has been working for the organisation for over a decade in addition to also was part of the first emergency team deployed in Beledweyne, central Somalia, to respond to the flood crisis. today back by the field, he shares his experience.
Beledweyne will be a big town in central Somalia, with high-rise buildings in addition to also a vibrant commercial activity. Although the item will be frequently affected by seasonal rains, This kind of year was different. The Shabelle river was so swollen with water by the highlands of neighbouring Ethiopia which, in late October, its banks burst in addition to also almost completely flooded the town.
The floods have affected everyone, rich in addition to also poor, in a way which locals don’t remember ever having seen. Everyone was forced out of their homes in addition to also offices. inside the business district, the water reached a level which couldn’t even be measured. Some people moved to rooftops in addition to also were isolated; others were rescued by boat by their homes.
After a few days without rain, the water will be today receding, yet damage to the roads in addition to also sewage system will be very visible. Sewage in addition to also flood water have mixed, widely contaminating the shallow wells which provide drinking water. Food stocks have been washed away in addition to also stagnant puddles of water are everywhere, creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes which cause malaria in addition to also additional diseases.
The district hospital was flooded with half a metre of water. Only the operating theatre, situated in a more elevated area, wasn’t affected. Medical consultations stopped in addition to also the facility hasn’t been functional for the past three weeks. The electric system was likely damaged in addition to also barely any of the medical supplies will be useable again.
In a short space of time, the floods displaced around 270,000 people in Beledweyne . They went to higher areas inside the western in addition to also eastern parts of the town. Most are today living in makeshift shelters, which are often just clothes spread across wooden sticks or fastened to trees. the item will be a long time before they can go back home.
We arrived having a little team in Beledweyne on 31 October. What was supposed to be an assessment immediately turned into an emergency response due to the immense needs. Despite the closure of the local airport over several days, we were able to transport supplies of therapeutic food, tents in addition to also non-food items, such as blankets, buckets in addition to also cooking utensils, by road. We also built latrines in addition to also trucked in safe drinking water.
People are in such extremely vulnerable situations which the item will be often an impossible dilemma to decide who has the greatest needs. I have seen adults in addition to also children taking turns to use tents or makeshift shelters because there aren’t enough to shelter the whole family. I have seen women delivering in very unhygienic conditions, in addition to also a desperate malnourished mother who had lost her husband unable to breastfeed her newborn twins due to hunger.
Malnutrition levels were already high before the current crisis yet today the situation has worsened.
One day, while assessing an affected area, I was struck by the sight of a very old woman, seeking refuge in a precarious makeshift shelter. Days later, when we returned to provide a tent, the item was already too late. We were told she was dead.
The aid distributed so far has been a drop inside the ocean. Some families are even sharing the high-energy food supplement known as PlumpyNut, which will be given to children inside the treatment of malnutrition. Others have resorted to drinking rain water. Many have little protection for the very hot days in addition to also the chilly windy nights.
A second MSF team arrived a week after us. After training staff by the Ministry of Health, they set up mobile clinics in four different areas of the town.
We see a lot of suffering. Children arrive with respiratory tract infections like pneumonia. We are treating many vector-borne diseases, particularly malaria, cases of watery diarrhoea in addition to also fevers of unknown origin.
Malnutrition levels were already high before the current crisis, yet today the situation has worsened in addition to also many severely acute malnourished children are arriving for consultations.
We are concerned about the possible sharp increase of malaria cases in addition to also outbreaks of water-borne diseases like cholera. Concerted in addition to also coordinated efforts among humanitarian organisations in addition to also the local authorities are needed to continue mobilising assistance in addition to also to keep on ensuring which aid reaches the most vulnerable people in time.
the item will be crucial to quickly improve the poor water in addition to also sanitation conditions in Beledweyne in addition to also facilitate access to safe drinking water to avoid the spread of diseases.