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The Role of Climate information and Early Warning Systems in Supporting Disaster Risk Reduction in Somalia

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For the past decades, Somalia has seen frequent natural hazards with increased intensity and complexity and their impacts have had significant implications for the country. Floods and droughts are particularly the two natural cyclic events that frequently affect the country and leading to repeated loss of lives, crops and livestock. Both floods and droughts return with different degrees of intensity and impact, and losses vary depending on the early warnings, preparedness and response being done by the Somali government and its partners. The existing weak early warning systems in Somalia have also amplified the government incapability in disaster risk reduction at the grassroots level, which in turn contributed to repeated loss of lives and shocks to livelihoods. However, with appropriate use of meteorological, hydrological and climate information, substantial progress towards a strong and better disaster risk reduction can be achieved. The development of effective Early Warning Systems in Somalia is a critical for fostering livelihood resilience by improving coping mechanisms and even enhancing adaptive capacity. Therefore, a complete and effective early warning system can play a pivotal role in preventing loss of lives and properties by providing useful information that allows communities to protect their lives and assets. In recent years, number of initiatives have been undertaken by various government agencies in Somalia for the purpose of facilitating disaster risk reduction mainstreaming in the country. Prominent among these was the establishment of Multi-hazard Early Warning Center under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs & Disaster Management and tasking it with the coordination of disaster risk management activities in the country.

This report presents a comprehensive review and analysis of the available climatological data and information on droughts and floods in Somalia to examine the usefulness of the climate data for future disaster risk reduction and early warning systems to support vulnerable Somali communities affected by frequent natural hazards. The main findings of the present study were however indicated that Somalia is characterized by frequent drought, which is known to have the most far-reaching impacts of all-natural disasters and this challenge will most likely to aggravate due to climate change coupled with slow progress in drought risk management. On the other hand, during the two-main rainy season, Gu (March-June) and Deyr (October-December), floods hit Somalia particularly the areas along the Shabelle River in Hiraan and Middle Shabelle regions. Flooding of the Juba and Shabelle rivers are due to both climatic and anthropogenic processes. These natural floods are due primarily to drainage from catchment areas located in the Ethiopian highlands, which normally experience heavier rainfall than in Somalia which in turn causes increased level of rivers in Somalia. The other factors that could also playing a role in repeated episodes of flooding is the changes in the natural environment that contributes to the increased frequency of floods by increasing erosion rates that result in river bed sedimentation which makes rivers shallower causing floods to occur even with low amounts of rainfall. The other key important factor that usually leads to floods year after year in riverine areas in Somalia is the deliberate cutting of river banks by riparian communities for irrigation purposes during dry seasons which they unfortunately forget to close or intentially do so, and this gives way to floods in the event of increased river flows.

The primary data used for this study was mainly retrieved from CHIRPS gridded rainfall dataset and SWALIM rainfall and river monitoring stations across Somalia. Furthermore, detailed reviews, analysis of available information, reports and data was undertaken prior to drafting this report. This study recommends for further strengthening of existing DRR and EW system mechanisms at the national and regional levels through an integrated and cross-sectoral approach supported by appropriate and innovative financing systems. Climate information that has been collected over the years provides an excellent baseline and opportunity for Somali authorities to further explore. Presently, there are over 100 manual rainfall stations and more than 10 automatic weather stations across the country and majority of them were installed by FAO-SWALIM. These stations measure a variety of weather parameters such as rainfall, temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity, solar radiation, and atmospheric pressure. SWALIM, for instance, regularly produces and distributes number of informational bulletins and alerts providing the latest information and data on various aspects of the climate situation in Somalia and this have significantly demonstrated the effectiveness of DRR and EW systems for reducing risk exposure and vulnerability, particularly in times of drought and floods. Therefore, climate services and information can be utilized by communities, public authorities and disaster risk management institutions for early warning and mitigation strategies.