Thirsty Cities In War

Somalia floods 1997/98

Written By: Giorgio Nembrini
When a disaster strikes, one of the main problems is to estimate the number of people affected, where they are and what has to be done to alleviate their plight. This number, commonly named denominators, will trigger funding, relief, logistics, etc., which will have to be supported by a state relief agency, NGOs, and, often, with the financial assistance of the donor’s community. End of 1997, unusually sustained rains fell in the Highlands of Ethiopia and in the Juba and Shabelle Valleys of Somalia and both rivers burst their banks and large areas were flooded. A large number of people had to leave their homes and gathered in locations where no facilities were available, trying to survive until the water levels dropped. In this paper, the potentialities of using GIS (in this case ARCVIEW R ) together with a database (UNDOS) to monitor the extent of floods, to predict the locations and the number affected and to provide estimations of the population at risk is be described, at a time when Google Earth R and high definition satellite imagery were not as common as now. The situation of 77 villages of the Lower Juba valley, located between Jilib, Jamaame and Gobweyn is considered. This was where the consequences of the floods were particularly dramatic, due to the combined effects of the Juba and the Shabelle rivers. Predictions based on GIS approach and a corrected database showed that about 30-40’000 people were severely affected and data from surveys, which had to be corrected as well, showed that the number of people stranded in camps or on dikes was up to 35’000 (7170 families). GIS information was able to exclude many villages which were not directly affected by the floods allowing the humanitarian organizations to concentrate in those in need. If the field surveys were of paramount importance in order to define where to implement activities, an approach based on GIS and an “updated” database, allowed to plan more specifically and to apply for proper funding and support from the donors. If things are made easier now with the use of Google Earth R and high definition images put at the disposal by different specialized agencies (EUROSAT, etc.), the need to populate and to update a database will still be essential and this paper may give some hints on how to do it in the specific case of flooding, more and more common these days of global warming and erratic and intense rainfalls.

 

When a disaster strikes, one of the main problems is to estimate the number of people affected, where they are
and what has to be done to alleviate their plight. This number, commonly named denominators, will trigger
funding, relief, logistics, etc., which will have to be supported by a state relief agency, NGOs, and, often, with the
financial assistance of the donor’s community.

Somalia

DOWNLOAD HERE: Somalia floods 1997_98.Pdf

N.B.: to download a free version of Acrobat Reader click here images