Press releases

How a cycle of drought and flood is changing shelter aid in Somalia 

ShelterBox is launching an urgent spring fundraising appeal to support people without shelter in Somalia and around the world.

19 April 2024

Man wearing green head scarf in Somalia

Press release – 19 April

  • Interviews available with ShelterBox’s programme manager in Mogadishu on Friday and Saturday.
  • B-roll and images of ShelterBox’s ongoing work in Somalia.
  • Written and pre-recorded case-study content.

The nearly one million people displaced by conflict, drought, or flooding in Somalia urgently need shelter and clean water before the next wave of heavy rains hit, a UK charity is warning.  

The international disaster relief charity ShelterBox is today (Friday) launching an urgent Spring fundraising appeal to raise £150,000 to help it reach its mission of no one without shelter after disaster. 

ShelterBox specialises in emergency shelter, and it has a response team on the ground in Somalia where homes have been washed away and people are living in makeshift shelters or seeking refuge under trees on higher ground. As well as responding to the sudden-onset flooding, it’s also looking at ways to address the longer-term impact of climate change that is driving prolonged and unplanned urbanisation. 

With the changing climate and growing displacement, ShelterBox is changing the way it works by developing different types of shelters in its responses depending on the needs of affected communities. In Somalia, where people will stay displaced for longer without proper support to rebuild homes, ShelterBox is focusing on more robust shelters that will better withstand weather extremes. 

In some places, floodwaters still haven’t receded after unusually heavy rains, triggered by El Nino, followed the most severe and prolonged drought the region has faced in 40 years. As the impact of the climate crisis worsens, it’s having far-reaching consequences for countries like Somalia that are disproportionately affected. Somalia contributes just 0.03 percent of total global emissions, but it remains trapped in a cycle of crises. 

Changing the way we work 

ShelterBox’s Programme Manager for Somalia, Mel Hughes, says: “Somalia has not brought about the problem of climate change, but it is suffering the consequences. After enduring the worst drought in four decades, southern Somalia was hit hard by heavy rains. The first wet season of this year is April-June, so more rains are coming, yet people haven’t had chance to recover.  

“As extreme weather gets worse, hits the same places more often, and last longer, we’re having to change the way we work. 

“We’ve learned that a tent isn’t always the right answer. That’s why we consider each of our responses carefully and take time to listen to the people affected. Understanding how long people might be displaced and the local weather conditions help us figure out what type of shelters will be most appropriate.” 

In southern Somalia, ShelterBox is working with Juba Foundation to support thousands of people with emergency shelter to protect themselves and their families from heavy rains and searing heat.  

As well as shelters made from timber and tarpaulins, this year the partners have been focusing on sturdier options that will better withstand weather extremes. These shelters, with corrugated iron roofs, raised bases, low cement walls, and mudbrick walls coated with cement or lime, offer better protection from the elements. Emergency shelter kits are also being distributed to people planning to return home. These kits include tarpaulins and tools, so people can make their homes watertight. 

Securing land tenure to ward off fear of eviction 

Tens of thousands of people have made their way to vast displacement sites that encircle the city of Baidoa, including 73-year-old Jimcale.  

He says: “In my many years on this earth, I have seen changes in the climate. The rain is sometimes too much, sometimes not enough. Crops have become unpredictable, leading to empty stomachs sometimes.  

“The change in the climate completely turned our world upside down and forced me and my family to leave behind the life we knew. We became displaced, chasing safety from the chaos it brought and now in my old age I am left to find my stability again.” 

Mel adds: “Many people we are supporting at camps in Baidoa have travelled long distances on foot with young children in search of water, food, and shelter. People fear being evicted from the land they’ve found refuge on. That’s why, with Juba Foundation, we’re not only providing robust shelters and essential items like solar lights, but also securing land tenure for between three and 15 years at each site.” 

Like many other nomadic farming families that rely on cultivating the land, Ibrahim had to leave his rural home with his family after years of relentless drought devastated their livestock. 

He says: “Our journey to Baidoa was difficult and it involved putting all our belongings in one donkey-cart, and the children which cannot walk, we were starving and thirsty. It was a distance of three days and nights that we were on the road, which was a difficult decision for us.” 

Ibrahim and his family found refuge at one of several sites in Baidoa supported by ShelterBox and Juba Foundation. 

The transition to our new shelters, provided by ShelterBox and Juba Foundation, significantly improved our living conditions,” he adds. “The solar lights have been invaluable as we can now go to the toilet at night without fearing the dark.” 

For 30-year-old Nurta I, the drought left her without water and ruined her farmland where she grew crops and tended to her livestock to provide for her family. With her children, she travelled for eight days by car and on foot, grappling with uncertainty, hunger, and thirst. 

When they reached Baidoa they initially stayed in a makeshift shelter. But now, with a more durable shelter, Nurta has opened a small shop, where she can make a living selling essentials to her neighbours. 

In my rural home, we were farmers,” says Nurta. “Coming to Baidoa and adjusting to life here was difficult, but with the new shelters, I have a proper place to call home.  

“In our previous house, rain would seep into where we were sleeping, causing discomfort, whereas these new shelters offer greater comfort. The space of my house is sufficient, and I don’t need to worry about being forced to evict like in other camps I’ve been to.” 

Nurta M, 35, echoed the sentiment. She left her hometown with her children because of severe shortages of water and food. 

She says: “Our journey [here] was quite challenging; we had been struggling for three months before arriving here. As we were travelling, we did not have much food and water and when we arrived, some of my children were admitted to the hospital because of malnutrition. 

“Before moving here, we felt uncertain about our future and the fear of being forced to move again loomed over us. This new shelter provides us with stability, as we have been guaranteed to remain here for at least four years.” 

Preparing for the next disaster 

It’s not just Somalia bearing the brunt of the displacement crisis, the number of people displaced within their own countries worldwide hit 71.1 million by the end of 2022, up by 20 percent from the year before, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s latest report. That figure is expected to rise significantly when it’s 2024 GRID report is released next month (May). 

Head of Supporter Engagement at ShelterBox, Kirsty Alexander says: “At ShelterBox we’ll continue to listen to the needs of displaced people around the world and remain flexible. When that means adapting types of shelter or considering other options, that’s what we’ll do. 

“Our Spring Fundraising Appeal comes at a critical time as we witness the devastating consequences of conflict, flooding, and the worst drought in 40 years on the people of Somalia. Thousands of families are still living in makeshift shelter, with no access to basic sanitation or clean water. 

“We rely on public support to be ready for the next disaster, so we can support people with the essentials people need to begin rebuilding their lives.” 

ShelterBox’s Spring fundraising appeal aims to provide crucial emergency shelter to people uprooted from their homes in places like Somalia and other countries around the world. Every donation up to £50,000 is going to be matched, doubling the impact. 

No two disasters are the same. And responses can’t be the same either. Since 2000, ShelterBox has supported more than 2.5 million people across the world with different combinations of emergency shelter aid. 

To learn more about ShelterBox or to donate people can visit

As well as Somalia, ShelterBox is supporting people displaced by conflict in Gaza, Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Burkina Faso, and Mozambique. 


For more information contact the press office at ShelterBox via [email protected].  


Notes to Editors  

  • Photographs and captions included. More images available on request. 
  • B-roll of ShelterBox’s ongoing work in Somalia. 
  • Interviews available with Melanie Hughes in Somalia.  
  • Case-study videos, photos, and written. Available on request.
  • ShelterBox’s Spring Fundraising Appeal features the personal stories of displaced people in Somalia. As part of our ongoing ethical storytelling work, our response team revisited the individuals who had shared their stories with us. During a community workshop, content for the Appeal was shared for their feedback, and of other community members, ahead of launch. This feedback was incorporated into the final design of the Appeal. Those taking part confirmed that the stories were correct and that they felt proud being involved in the Appeal. Community members said the Appeal was reflective of the community issues as a whole. All were happy for the content to be used as described for the campaign.   


About ShelterBox 

ShelterBox provides emergency shelter and other essential items to families who have lost their homes to disasters. With operational headquarters in Cornwall, the charity also has 13 affiliate organisations worldwide.  

The charity has been Rotary International’s project partner in disaster relief since 2012. ShelterBox has supported more than 2.5 million people since it was founded in 2000.