Humanitarian situation may worsen in Somalia as COVID-19 spreads


The UN refugee agency said on Friday it believes the humanitarian situation will worsen as COVID-19 further spreads in Somalia.

The UNHCR said heavy flooding, conflict, a crippled economy, impending desert locust swarms and the spread of COVID-19 are threatening the safety and welfare of Somalia’s 2.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs).

“UNHCR fears these multiple, compounding emergencies will lead to devastating consequences unless there is a strong and coordinated response from the international community, national and local Somali authorities and humanitarian actors to meet the massive humanitarian needs,” it said in a statement.

The UN refugee agency said since the start of 2020, more than 220,000 Somalia people have become internally displaced, including 137,000 due to conflict.

It said natural and climate-related disasters including drought and resulting lack of livelihoods and floods are additional complex and interlinked drivers of displacement.

According to UNHCR, flash floods and the beginnings of riverine flooding in south and central Somalia, caused by the seasonal Gu rains, have already displaced an estimated 90,000 with additional displacement expected, worsening significant pre-existing humanitarian needs faced by IDPs and host communities.

“If current trends continue, this year’s rains give every indication that they could pose the same catastrophic threat as the Deyr rains of 2019, which led to more than 400,000 people being forced to flee their homes,” UNHCR said.

It noted that swarms of desert locusts threaten to decimate crop yields and cause widespread food shortages post the Gu rains.

Earlier this week, UNHCR and the government airlifted emergency assistance to help over 8,000 people in Baidoa, Bardheere and Qardho in Somalia.

A second airlift delivering aid in Qardho, Bardheere, Beletweyn, and Berdale is set to take place as early as Friday, with UNHCR’s assistance expected to reach a total of 37,000 individuals.

According to UNHCR, in March and April, armed operations against al-Shabab resumed in Lower Shabelle, resulting in more than 50,000 people being forced to flee their homes.

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