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Djibouti Flash Appeal, December 2019 - March 2020

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Djibouti experienced heavy rains between 21 and 28 November, triggering flash floods and destruction of infrastructure, homes and livelihoods across the country. While Djibouti’s yearly average rainfall is 127 mm or less, in Djibouti city the equivalent of two years of rainfall occurred at the peak three-day period of 21-23 November, with over 295 mm of rainfall recorded. At least 11 people have been killed by the flash floods, including seven children. Current forecast indicates a possibility for more rains to occur, which will further compound the already precarious humanitarian situation.

According to the Government-led Interagency Rapid Assessment, an estimated 250,000 people have been affected (one fourth of the population, countrywide) by the floods. Of particular concern is an estimated 150,000 people, including migrants and refugees, who are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.
Djibouti hosts over 30,000 refugees and asylum seekers, of which some 49 per cent of them are children. In addition, over 100,000 migrants, mostly Ethiopian, live in the country, and an additional 300-400 travel through Djibouti on daily basis. The most severe impact of the rains occurred in Djibouti city, where an estimated 200,000 people (21 per cent of the total population of the country) are impacted and 120,000 people require urgent life-saving assistance. The devastating consequences are most acutely felt by those most vulnerable, including those living in extreme poverty, children, widows, the elderly, disabled and people on the move (refugees, migrants and IDPs). An estimated 15 per cent of affected families are female-headed households (mostly widowed).

Affected areas are the same hosting vulnerable populations that were hit by Cyclone Sagar and subsequent flooding in late May 2018, many of whom were still recovering from last year’s natural disaster devastating effects. This is testimony on how the climate crisis is adversely affecting those most vulnerable in Djibouti, where two years of subsequent large-scale flooding events are unprecedented, and present a major challenge to systems and populations that have little learned coping mechanisms to deal with flooding and other climate change related events such as the raising of sea levels and stronger tides. This is also a stark reminder of the need not only to act quickly and provide life-saving assistance to those in need, but also to ensure that humanitarian and recovery activity embrace in full the concept of resilience and ‘build back better’, as similar events are likely to occur with even more frequency and intensity.

Some 5,000 extremely vulnerable people (women, children under age 5 and disable people) took shelter in collective centres in the first four days of the crisis, where the Government and humanitarian partners provided them with hot meals and some medical assistance. Not all those in need could however be housed there. One week after the start of the rains an estimated 10,000 individuals were still sheltering with family or community members as their dwelling were still flooded, despite sustained pumping and cleaning up operations. Some of the most vulnerable were sheltering in flooded dwellings as they had no alternative.
Vulnerable households are struggling to cope with the floods devastating effects and many unable to repair their damaged homes or recover their livelihoods. At least 25 per cent of those affected (approximately 19,000 people) need urgent emergency shelter support as their – often precarious – dwellings have been further damaged by the heavy rains and floods. An estimated 75 per cent (112,000 people) need support to replace key household items as they are forced to prioritize what little income they have on other essential goods.
Outside Djibouti town, 3,667 households were affected in Arta region, with at least 887 in need of emergency food, shelter and NFI support. In Ali Sabieh region, 2,310 families were impacted and 360 households in Obock region need urgent life-saving shelter and NFI assistance as the rain has severely affected shelters and the temperatures have dropped.

Flooding has impacted household food security, with 95 per cent of affected households reported losing key household food stock in Djibouti town. Prior to the inundations, about 280,000 people (one third of the total population) were facing chronic levels food insecurity, according to the 2018-2022 IPC Chronic Food Insecurity Analysis. A recent SMART survey conducted in 2019 found that severe acute malnutrition was above emergency thresholds (>2 per cent) with 2.6 per cent and global acute malnutrition was serious across the country at 10.3 per cent. Households spend 68 per cent of their budget on food and are extremely vulnerable to shocks. Following the floods, many households have resorted to negative coping mechanisms, with 89.5 per cent (17 of 19) neighbourhoods interviewed in Djibouti city saying that, on average, the total amount of food people consumed has decreased since. The floods have disproportionately affected women, who bear the primary responsibility for food within the home and are struggling to cope with the additional strain. The rapid assessment found that market access was hampered for a few days in five districts of Djibouti town, and many small shops owners’ stock was affected by the flooding.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.