Global Agriculture

FAO and UK launch anticipatory action to reduce El Niño’s impact on at-risk communities in Somalia

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17 August 2023, Mogadishu: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the British Embassy Mogadishu (BEM) have launched an Anticipatory Action and Preparedness programme in Somalia ahead of an expected El Niño event.

El Niño is a climate pattern expected to bring about increased rainfall, with riverine areas of Somalia particularly at risk of severe flooding. There is now a greater than 90 percent chance that El Niño will continue through the end of the year, and FAO estimates 1.2 million people are in areas at high risk of flooding. FAO’s Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) Unit anticipates a major flood event of a magnitude statistically likely only once in 100 years, and follows another historic flood earlier this year that displaced around 245,000 people along the Shabelle river. An El Niño related flooding event in riverine areas of this scale could lead to loss of life, mass displacement, destruction of property and loss of livelihoods, resulting in an increase in acute food insecurity.

To mitigate the effects of a potential disaster, FAO and the BEM have launched a $3.8 million anticipatory action and preparedness initiative in areas facing the greatest risks. The project “Badbaado”, which means “to salvage from calamity”, is part of FAO’s multi-donor El Niño programme, which seeks to mitigate, prepare for and respond to the threat of severe flooding and humanitarian disaster during the country’s second major rainy season between October and December this year.

“We have a very short window of only a few months to prepare for and mitigate the worst impacts of El Niño, and we are grateful to the UK for rapidly mobilising support for this important work. By taking early and well-informed action, together, we can help to protect vulnerable rural communities from the worst outcomes of disaster,” said Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO’s Representative to Somalia.

“Somalia is facing yet another crisis – an El Niño has been declared and may develop into a once in a century flooding event this year. We are acting now to prioritise resources,” said Damon Bristow, Development Director for the British Embassy Mogadishu. “This cost-effective and sustainable joint initiative with FAO will mean we are able to save lives and prevent damage to livestock, crops and properties which could prove extremely damaging to the livelihoods of Somalia’s most vulnerable communities,” he said.

Under the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and in partnership with the Somalia Disaster Management Agency, FAO plans to close 937 metres of breakage points along the Shabelle river in Beletweyne town to slow down flood waters, reduce the immediate impact of flooding and allow people time to move away from high risk areas.  The project also plans to rehabilitate a major canal to redirect flood waters away from populated areas in Beletweyne, as well as prepositioning 800,000 sandbags in flood prone areas.

Early warning systems will be activated in partnership with government and local responders along the Shabelle and Juba rivers, with messages transmitted to communities through local radio networks, SMS services, and official channels to inform early action and save lives. FAO will also coordinate with local authorities and community groups to support evacuation planning.

Background for editors:

• Anticipatory action consists of efforts taken to reduce the impact of a forecasted hazard before it occurs, or before its most acute impact is felt.

• This investment forms part of the UK’s £48m humanitarian commitment to Somalia announced by Minister Andrew Mitchell at the Horn of Africa Pledging Event in May 2023.

• The above anticipatory action plan is underpinned by FAO’s strong data and analytical capacity through the SWALIM Unit. Data gathered via remote sensing, river level monitoring and flood modelling will inform early warning messages and preparedness actions at the local level. Experiences from the devastating Shabelle River flooding in May 2023 have also informed the design of interventions to improve their effectiveness..

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