WFP Delivers Life-Saving Food After Cyclone Hits Puntland, Somalia

Published on 28 November 2013

WFP food assistance is distributed in Puntland after the cyclone. Copyright: WFP/Faisal Abdi Mohamed

A tropical cyclone slammed into Somalia’s northeastern coast on 10 November, killing at least 80 people, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Many of those who died were children or elderly people – those most at risk from hypothermia and exposure. Despite logistical challenges, the World Food Programme is providing critical assistance to affected communities while also looking to cater for longer-term needs. 

DONGOROYO – When Asha Adan heard that WFP would be distributing food to cyclone survivors in Dongoroyo in Somalia’s Puntland region, she lost no time in making her way to the town.

She was given 5 kg of oil, 10 kg of maize, 10 kg of porridge and 10 kg of pulses. This would enable her family to eat as they struggled to recover from the cyclone that tore through this region, becoming just the latest disaster to strike this vulnerable Horn of Africa country.

“We had rain like we’ve never had before, a storm, strong winds, freezing cold and lots of water. We experienced all these things.  By the grace of god, I haven’t lost any members of my family, but from the 300 livestock I had, only two remain. My home and everything in it is gone,” Adan said after collecting her much-needed rations in Dongoroyo.

Pastoralists, like Adan, were the hardest hit when the cyclone swept livestock and flimsy, makeshift homes out into the sea. The day after the storm, local authorities declared a state of emergency but initially, it was hard to tell exactly how much damage had been done as roads had been washed away in a region with very poor infrastructure.

On 15 November, WFP conducted a rapid aerial assessment to measure the extent of the damage and identify the best ways to reach those in need of assistance.  

WFP transported 340 metric tons of food, such as cereals, pulses and cooking oil, from the port of Bossaso to Banderbayla, Dongoroyo and Eyl, the worst-affected districts. Around 27, 000 people in these areas have received one month’s food rations.

In the surrounding countryside, there were some signs of the storm that had flared so suddenly – the occasional dead animal carcass, and a powerful smell of rotting meat. The main road link between Garowe and Bossaso was completely washed away, about 60km north of Garowe, but restoration work was already underway in the days following the storm.

Rebuilding infrastructure

Once the emergency operation is over, WFP will start to implement a recovery programme, including the Food-for-Assets (FFA) initiative which will help communities rebuild their assets so that they can be in a stronger position when any future man-made or natural shocks occur. In return for their work, people receive monthly food rations.

For now, the immediate needs include food, blankets and tents. Health, water and sanitation services also need to be provided to prevent the spread of disease. In the medium term, families will need support to rebuild lost livelihoods including help to restock herds.

Hadia Warsame Ahmed lost nearly half her livestock in the storm, with her herd shrinking from 70 animals to 40.

 “My remaining animals are now sick and I am afraid more will die. I also had mules that we used to move heavy things. All died in the storm,” she said after collecting food in Dongoroyo.

People in Somalia’s southern regions have also had to cope with heavy rains and some flooding. Since the beginning of the Deyr rainy season, rainfall has been moderate to heavy both in these regions and in the nearby Ethiopian highlands, which provide 90 percent of the water that flows into the Juba and Shabelle rivers.

This has led to some flooding, especially in Middle Shabelle where river banks are weak or, in some places, non-existent. In southern Somalia, WFP is providing food assistance to around 5,000 families who have been affected by the floods.

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about the author

Laila Ali

Spokesperson / Public Information Officer

Laila is a former journalist now based in Kenya. She has reported for Al Jazeera English, Sky news, and the Guardian.