Somalia’s crisis deepens: Over a million displaced amid drought, floods, and conflict

Somalia is currently grappling with severe environmental and conflict-driven challenges. An historic drought in 2023, widespread flooding in 2024, and escalating warfare with the armed group Al-Shabab have resulted in the displacement of over a million people.

In a camp on the outskirts of the central city of Beledweyne, Samira struggles to care for her newborn daughter, born while fleeing their home due to drought and violent conflict. The confrontation between the government and Al-Shabab has intensified, leaving Samira and many others without food or shelter. They now reside in a basic structure made of wood and plastic tarps, separated from Samira’s husband and the couple’s other children.

The region is enduring its worst drought in 60 years, reminiscent of the devastating drought and famine of 2011-2012, which claimed 250,000 lives. Although a famine has far been avoided this year through international aid, the situation remains dire. Most of the country faces severe food shortages, with famine threatening rural and displaced populations.

Complicating matters, catastrophic flooding has recently uprooted nearly all inhabitants of the Beledweyne area. The floods have damaged infrastructure, making roads impassable and delaying aid delivery.

“These figures represent some of the most vulnerable individuals being forced to leave everything behind,” says Kadir Hassan Food Security and Livelihood (FSL) specialist for Islamic Relief Somalia.

The overall humanitarian need in Somalia is increasing, with millions of people lacking access to basic necessities like food and water. In 2022, drought alone was responsible for thousands of deaths. Projections estimate the death toll in 2024 could continue to rise significantly.

Currently, 3.9 million Somalis are displaced within the country, while another 700,000 have sought refuge abroad since 2023. With rising insecurity and dwindling resources, Samira mentioned that people were continuously leaving her village.

Samira is desperate to find work and reunite her family, although the prospects are bleak given their dire financial situation. Most Somalis live on less than $2 (£1.61) a day.

At the camp, Ifrah, another resident from Lower Shabelle, recounts the recent drought’s severity, noting it surpassed previous crises. “In 2011, there was help, and our cattle survived, but now everything is lost,” she says. Water scarcity has also exacerbated diseases among livestock – critical for the community’s sustenance and economic stability.

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