Somalia: Caught Between Crisis. How to overcome the climate-induced perpetual crises

The main bridge in Baardheere collapses blockading thousands of families. | Photo: SM.

In the past five years, Somalia has grappled with a series of climate change-induced crises, reaching a critical apex in 2022. It faced its worst drought in four decades, leading to an extreme water shortage that put the country on the brink of famine. Six million people were left without sufficient water, 1.3 million were displaced, and 43,000 lives were lost, half of them being children.

As the rainy season began, offering hope for recovery, a new crisis emerged. As forewarned by humanitarian agencies and the Somali Disaster Management Agency (SoDMA), Flash floods are currently pushing the entire country to the brink of yet another catastrophe. As of now, SoDMA reports that over 800,000 people are affected and an additional 300,000 are displaced.

While the current El Niño-induced crisis is glaring, the roots of the problem run much deeper. Somalia has been besieged by the climate crisis, facing challenges from prolonged droughts and erratic rainfall to an alarming surge in flash floods. These recurring crises not only disrupt lives and livelihoods but also impede Somalia’s journey towards achieving its adaptation and mitigation efforts towards the worsening effects of climate change.

Despite the well-intentioned efforts by disaster agencies, current crisis response approaches often fall short of meeting the nuanced needs of local communities. They perpetuate a cycle of dependency on emergency assistance without addressing the underlying root causes.

Furthermore, living between crises is a luxury Somalia cannot afford. The already vulnerable and poverty-stricken population is enduring unimaginable suffering.

Crucial now is a policy shift that goes beyond the confines of emergency response and towards long-term actions through sustained investment in durable solutions – a change advocated by experts for years.

Steps for durable solutions
The first critical aspect requiring international attention lies in providing substantial governmental assistance. Somalia, burdened by economic constraints, requires direct financial support to fortify its administrative capabilities. This entails injecting much-needed resources and cultivating collaborations with international organisations to facilitate the transfer of technical expertise. Such a partnership is crucial for the formulation and execution of climate-centric policies that can withstand the complexities of the changing climate.

A second policy shift involves the development and implementation of adaptive strategies tailored to Somalia’s specific vulnerabilities. The international community must actively engage in measures designed to enhance the nation’s adaptation capacity. This encompasses not only responding to immediate climate-related challenges but also building a resilient foundation for long-term sustainability.

The third and most important shift is investing in local communities. Community-centred capacity-building initiatives can become instrumental in ensuring that Somalia can anticipate, respond, and recover effectively from the inevitable climate shocks. Local communities possess a unique understanding of their environment, its resources, and how to best adapt to its ever-changing conditions. By involving the very people who intimately understand the land, weather patterns, and ecosystems, we unlock a reservoir of indigenous knowledge. Investing in the capacity-building of these local communities is not merely a good practice; it is an investment in a sustainable future that can have a meaningful impact.

When these communities are equipped with the tools, resources, and knowledge to respond to climate change-induced hazards, they become the vanguards of change. They can devise strategies to manage water resources during droughts, cultivate climate-resilient crops, and develop disaster response plans tailored to their contexts. The impact of such an approach goes beyond immediate relief. It boosts local economies, fosters sustainable solutions, and nurtures a sense of ownership within the local communities. When communities, the very people that are most affected by these disasters, are the architects of their own solutions, there is a deeper commitment to implementation and maintenance.

During flash floods, the silver lining is the excessive waters which can be harvested to address the acute issue of water scarcity in drought seasons. Concurrently, sustainable agricultural practices, coupled with the development of drought-resistant crops, are indispensable for food security.

In conclusion, the path forward for Somalia in the face of these reoccurring crises is one that demands a nuanced and multifaceted approach. The international community’s proactive engagement, characterised by financial support, strategic collaboration, and a commitment to sustainable practices, is not merely a policy option but an ethical imperative. It is through such collective and cooperative efforts that Somalia can aspire to a future marked by resilience, sustainability, and triumph over the adversities imposed by the human-induced climate crisis.

With our keen focus on accurate, insightful, and comprehensive coverage, Gorfayn aims to keep you well-informed on the shifting dynamics of power, policy reform, security measures, and peacekeeping efforts, delivering a clear-eyed understanding of the complexities shaping the nation’s progress.

Copyright: Gorfayn (2023). This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC-BY-NC 4.0) that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work’s authorship and initial publication in this publication.

Mahbub Mohamed Abdillahi
Mahbub Mohamed Abdillahi
Mahbub Mohamed Abdillahi is a lecturer, researcher, and independent environmental health and safety consultant. He’s also a staff writer at Gorfayn where he writes about environmental, climate change, social, and cultural issues.

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