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Sunday, 22 December 2019

Biblical sized plagues bringing Somalia to its knees: Record breaking drought: Cholera epidemic: The worst flooding in living memory: And the biggest locust invasion in 25 years

Locust swarm, file picture

Back in 2017, Somalia was brought to its knees when 6 million people, half of the country's population were starving due to a crippling drought. Death came not just with starvation, Cholera was endemic. Thousands more were displaced by the drought and Somalia's battle against the Islamic extremists of al-Shabab.

By October 2019 the drought had disappeared, only to be replaced by the worst flooding in living memory, affecting more than half a million people, this week the largest plague of locusts arrived in 25 years. A small plague of locusts can eat the same amount of food as 35,000 people in one day.

Desert locusts are destroying tens of thousands of hectares of crops and grazing land in Somalia in the worst invasion in 25 years, the United Nations food agency said on Wednesday, and the infestation is likely to spread further. The locusts have damaged about 70,000 hectares of land in Somalia and neighbouring Ethiopia, threatening food supplies in both countries and the livelihoods of farming communities, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said. An average swarm will destroy crops that could feed 2,500 people for a year, the FAO said. Reuters

Since October 2019, over half a million people have been affected by ongoing floods in Somalia. With homes destroyed and crops devastated, flood-hit communities are in desperate need of assistance, says the UN. Heavy rains in Somalia and the Ethiopian highlands caused the Shabelle and Juba Rivers to overflow. Flooding has now affected over half a million people in Somalia, of whom 370,000 are displaced from their homes, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Flooding began around 21 October and has destroyed farmland and infrastructure and devastated livelihoods in some of the worst-hit areas. Many people have died, roads and homes destroyed, and more than 10,000 hectares of crops flooded. Rainfall in the area has been 300% for the months of October and November in what has been the worst flooding in living memory.
In 2017, 50 people a day were dying of hunger, credit Photo Hiiraan Online
 
Visibly shocked by the suffering of malnourished Somalis and cholera victims during an emergency visit, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday urged international support to alleviate Somalia's worsening hunger crisis. Every single person we have seen is a personal story of tremendous suffering. There is no way to describe it," Guterres said after seeing skeletal men, women and children in a cholera ward in Baidoa, 243 kilometres (151 miles) northwest of the capital, Mogadishu. Somalia's prolonged drought has caused widespread hunger, and the shortage of clean water has resulted in cholera. 6 million people, or almost half of the country's population, need assistance.

As drought and famine continue to wreak havoc across Somalia, cholera is also beginning to spread in parts of the country. The BBC's Andrew Harding has just been to the southwestern town of Baidoa and sent this report. And a warning that you might find some of the pictures distressing.

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