Somali families moving back in to flooded homes in Beletweyne amid fears of disease outbreaks
Abdullahi Ali, 39, and his family of 12 are camping out amid the debris of their house that was wrecked by the recent floods in Beletweyne, southern Somalia.
Abdullahi, a mechanic by trade, is determined that their new house will be more robust. He is digging foundations two metres down into the wet soil and hopes that he can get the house ready as soon as possible.
When the floods hit them, they moved to stay with relatives in Hawl-wadaag on higher ground. They were offered a small room where they all slept.
“I preferred to return here than to be a scrounger on other people,” Abdullahi told Radio Ergo. “I am now working on the house so I can get proper shelter for the children and give them somewhere to sleep.”
They came back on 31 May. Since then he has been prioritizing constructing a temporary pit latrine as the toilet was destroyed and fixing water pipes that were damaged. He cannot raise the $1,500 that he estimates it would cost to reconstruct the whole house.
Abdullahi makes a living repairing tuk-tuk taxis but he has not been able to make any money at all since the floods. The family is down from their previous expectation of three meals a day to just one.
Abdillahi Abdi Magan, head of Save the Children office in Hiran region, said it would not be possible to make an overview of the extent of the damage until the flood water subsides. He said they do not advise people to return immediately to their houses, which need to be disinfected to prevent the spread of disease. Toilets also urgently need to be repaired. Sewage has overflowed into the flood water and contaminated most properties.
Sheikh Hussein Osman, the head of social affairs for Hiran region, estimated that 40,000 families were displaced from the region and are slowly returning back.
“The people don’t have houses in the areas they migrated to and so they are being forced to return to their houses regardless of how damaged they are,” Sheikh Hussein told Radio Ergo.
A major challenge is that the floods have made it difficult to identify the boundaries of people’s plots of land. The walls of some houses were found washed a few metres away from their previous positions, making it hard to tell where a piece of land started or ended. This may bring conflict among neighbours.
Hiran administration said an unknown number of people have returned to Bundaweyn, Koshin and Hawl-wadaag. Residents of Hawo-Tako are yet to return back.