Somalia: Storm Devastated Puntland Struggles to Recover

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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Somalia: Storm Devastated Puntland Struggles to Recover

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 3, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Two weeks after a tropical cyclone struck the northeast coast of Puntland State of Somalia with unforeseen ferocity, the government estimates that over 35,000 people have been affected by the disaster and are at risk of destitution and hunger.

About a hundred and fifty people have been reported dead or missing, thousands of head of sheep, goats, and camels have been killed – the basis for livelihood and survival of most of the local community – infrastructure lies in ruins, and fears of an outbreak of waterborne diseases are intensifying.

“For three days almost 10 years of progress were hanging in the balance – we watched schools and health facilities being washed away by the heavy rainfall,” reported Hussein Hassan, Head of IOM's sub-office in Garowe, Puntland.

Details on the damage are only now emerging because part of the main tarmac road was swept away and some remote areas have been hard to reach. But so far, the assessment team, including IOM, ministries and agencies, observed that there is considerable damage on infrastructure and huge loss of livestock with dead bodies of animals everywhere in the epicenter with a strong stench of decaying flesh.

Furthermore, 14 water points including borehole wells were reported to have been destroyed to varying degrees in the districts of Eyl and Dangorayo.

“Given that Puntland is a semi-arid region, it rarely rains but when it does, to the extent that was seen, the impact is devastating,” said Hussein Gadain, the Chief Technical Advisor for FAO's Somalia Water and Land Information Management unit (SWALIM).

In liaison with local authorities, IOM and health cluster partners rapidly deployed medical teams to provide emergency medical and food assistance to the affected communities. IOM teams reached out to 495 beneficiaries with dry food supplies while 5,000 gained full access to emergency medical assistance.

“There is a pressing need for access to clean, safe, and hygienic drinking water. We are already receiving cases of diarrhoea and infectious diseases from the affected districts. In order to address the water shortage problems, we need to start water tracking and rehabilitation of water points. Our resources are limited so we appeal to our partners to assist us in addressing these pressing issues," pleaded Dr. Ali Abdullahi Warsame, Puntland's Minister of Health.

“The immediate humanitarian need is great, and will increase as many basic commodities are in short supply. Health facilities, schools and light infrastructure no longer stand where they used to, and as a result many women, children, and men have been left vulnerable to water-borne illnesses. Furthermore, the situation is heightened by the massive loss of livestock which is one of the local communities' main sources of livelihoods, families are running out of food supplies, and to compound matters, landmines from the Somali civil war are being unearthed by mudslides and floods, leaving many families in a precarious situation,” said Ali Abdi, IOM Somalia Chief of Mission.

IOM is planning longer term efforts to restock the affected pastoral communities, to support their economic recovery, and the restoration of livelihoods. IOM is also planning to actively participate in health systems strengthening in areas affected by the cyclone. A medical team consisting of qualified and auxiliary nurses and midwives will be participating in a three-month project to expand access of the affected communities to integrated Primary Health Care services.