Status of river breakages along the Juba and Shabelle Rivers in Somalia – February 2022

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Three consecutive poor rainy seasons within the Juba and Shabelle River basins inside Somalia and the Ethiopian highlands have led to the current serious hydrological drought along the two rivers. The river levels in the upper sections are currently at their historical minimum, while the mid and lower sections of the Shabelle River having run dry. With no rains expected in February and most of March, the river flow will continue to decline. The reduced river flow along the two rivers has negatively impacted agriculture production, domestic and livestock water use. This has also led to an increase of new river breakages as the riverine communities attempt to extract the limited resource to support livelihood activities. SWALIM has completed analysis and mapping of the river breakages along the two rivers using very high resolution satellite images acquired thanks to the kind contribution of the Embassy of France. The study has identified 101 open points along the Shabelle, out of which 24 points are new and the rest have remained open since the last survey in August 2021. Along the Juba River, 35 open points were identified out of which 5 are new points. During this drought period, it is expected that the riverine communities will continue to extract water from the rivers by breaching the banks and this will only see an increase of the open river bank points. Several other weak points which are not necessarily open but have the potential to overflow or break were identified during the analysis. This information is available in the SWALIM Flood Risk and Response Information Management System ( It is worth noting that since the last survey in August 2021, several agencies including FAO have made efforts to close about 23 of the open river banks and reinforced about 37 of weak river embankments that could otherwise flood when river levels rise. With the Gu rains expected in April 2022, the rise in river levels will consequently lead to floods resulting from the existing open river bank points and weak river embankments. It is therefore advisable to close the open points and reinforce the weak points before the start of the Gu season to avoid the negative impacts of riverine flooding. The methodology heavily relied on satellite imageries with limited field verification. Open breakages might have been omitted in some cases due to cloud cover or vegetation cover along the embankments
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Date of publication: 
February, 2022