Unrelenting rainfall brought severe flooding to the Horn of Africa in November 2023, unleashing devastation in Somalia, Kenya, and the Ethiopian highlands.
According to a report published on ReliefWeb, by November 16 floods had killed at least 111 people—including 16 children—with more than 770,000 people displaced. The humanitarian organization Save the Children also reported that the central Somalia town of Beledweyne was completely submerged, after the Shabelle River burst its banks forcing an estimated 250,000 people out of their homes. That’s 90 percent of the population and the rains are showing no signs of stopping.
This widespread flooding comes during the deyr, or second rainy season of the year, which normally occurs between October and December. Devastating flooding of the same region also occurred in March 2023, prior to the typical start of the Gu, the first rainy season of the year. These floods follow the worst drought experienced in the Horn of Africa for 40 years, which included five failed rainy seasons since late 2020.
The torrential rains and floods have exacerbated the hunger crisis in Somalia. Livelihoods and lives are at risk, with 4.3 million people – a quarter of the population – forecast to face crisis-level hunger or worse by the end of this year, according to the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired a false-color image of Somalia (east) and Kenya on November 17, 2023. This type of image uses visible and infrared light to help separate water (blue) from vegetation (electric green) and open land (brown or tan). Clouds may appear white or may be tinted with light blue. The November 17 image is paired with an Aqua MODIS false-color image of the same region acquired less than a month earlier, on October 22, 2023. To appreciate the vast extent of the rapid flooding, simply toggle between the two images by clicking on the dates.