Somalis Cope with Triple Disaster of Drought, Flooding, and Warfare

Somalia is confronting a series of disasters both natural and human-made. Following severe drought earlier in 2006 that killed thousands of cattle and threatened 1.8 million people with starvation, some 1.4 million people are now struggling to cope with the aftermath of the worst flooding in a decade, while more than 400,000 are internally displaced due to ongoing conflict. Some 15 years of conflict and chaos that saw the downfall of the country’s dictatorship and the rise of warlords have led to a collapse of Somalia's infrastructure. This means that not only are disaster victims more vulnerable to diseases, but also that aid is extremely difficult to deliver.

But Somalis now face yet another disaster: escalating violence that stems from Ethiopian intervention in Somalia’s political crisis. The Ethiopian government has bombarded several towns in Somalia and sent ground troops across the border. With U.S. support, it has done so in an effort to shore up the weak and unpopular Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Baidoa against Islamist forces—the Union of Islamic Courts—that had defeated Mogadishu’s warlords and is in control of southern and central Somalia. Among the areas attacked by Ethiopian jets was the town of Beletweyne in southern Somalia—many of whose inhabitants were just beginning to return from camps where they had sought refuge from flooding. The UN’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network has warned of potentially "catastrophic" effects of all-out war in Somalia. The brewing conflict has already had a serious impact in disrupting farming and led to higher prices.