U.N. agencies are rushing emergency aid to thousands of victims of Cyclone Gati, the most powerful tropical storm ever to hit Somalia.
Somalia has experienced 15 tropical storms, cyclones and flash floods over the last three-and-a-half decades but has never seen anything like Cyclone Gati.
The storm made landfall in Puntland’s Bari region November 22, dumping around two years of rainfall in just a few days. The United Nations says the cyclone has caused widespread destruction to schools, health facilities and other infrastructure, killed thousands of livestock and destroyed livelihoods.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Babar Baloch says more than 180,000 peoples’ lives have been upended by Gati, including 42,000 displaced from their homes.
“Cyclone Gati is resulting in a humanitarian emergency on top of existing emergencies in a country grappling with conflict, the coronavirus pandemic and desert locusts, making this an exceptionally difficult year for those displaced in Somalia,” Baloch said.
The UNHCR is planning to assist 36,000 cyclone victims in the hard-hit Bari region. They include internally displaced people, refugees and members of local host communities.
The agency together with the World Food Program and other humanitarian organizations recently airlifted relief supplies from Mogadishu to the city of Bosaso in the Bari region.
The consignment includes essential non-food items, such as mosquito nets, jerrycans, soap, blankets, sleeping mats and plastic sheets. Baloch says the UNHCR also will provide cash for emergency shelter to some of the victims.
“The world’s vulnerable face some of the worst effects of climate change, including food, water, and land insecurity, and disrupted services necessary for human health, livelihood, settlement, and survival,” Baloch said. “Invariably, among the most affected are older people, women, children and people with disabilities.”
Baloch says Cyclone Gati has separated families, destroyed livelihoods and increased the risk of gender-based violence. He says many of the displaced are returning to their damaged or destroyed homes but that rebuilding their lives will be difficult.