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New funding from the Government of France will boost FAO’s flood response in Somalia


Funding comes at a crucial time for emergency flood response efforts

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of France recently launched an in-kind partnership, which will allow FAO and other actors to strategically focus their flood response efforts in Somalia with innovations in technology and satellite imagery. The funding will support flood response efforts in three areas: river breakage analysis and assessment of the mitigation infrastructures put in place; monitoring and assessing possible cyclone damages and reconstruction efforts; and an almost real-time monitoring of flood impact to guide emergency response. FAO is continuously exploring new ways to optimize the use of technology to enhance its programming through diversifying its partnerships with private sector actors. This funding will support a partnership with Airbus, a private company pioneering the aerospace sector, with exclusive commercial access to the Disaster Monitoring Constellation, Pléiades, SPOT, TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X satellites. This collaboration will be a driver of innovation for emergency response and relief efforts by FAO and humanitarian partners in Somalia.

“Advanced technology, such as what will be available to us through this partnership with Airbus, really enhances FAO’s emergency response to floods in Somalia. The generous contribution from the Crisis and Support Centre of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs comes at a crucial juncture," stated Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO Representative in Somalia who added, “In terms of the timing, there is a heightened flood risk in several parts of the country, this year there was reduced funding availability for the humanitarian response efforts, this requires us to ensure ground operations are more strategically guided and more precise than ever.”

France has been an active and generous partner of FAO over the years, working closely with the Organization in support of shared food security, nutrition and agricultural development goals in Somalia. This project will assist key data gathering activities for FAO Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) which uses remote sensing and image analysis for robust flood monitoring actions and events. In particular, satellite images acquired by Airbus will be used to assess the status of the Shabelle and Juba rivers embankments deemed to be at high risk at present, providing up-to-date, crucial information for flood preparedness/response to FAO, its partners and Somali institutions.

“With this support from the Crisis and Support Centre of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs in agreement with the Airbus Foundation, we wish to help FAO’s innovative and technology-based approach in monitoring and preventing floods in Somalia, at a critical moment. We see disaster (and especially floods) management as a key issue to preserve livelihoods and break away from the cycle of humanitarian crises that the people of Somalia are facing,” said Aline Kuster-Ménager, Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, French Ambassador to Somalia.

A high-tech response boosts the emergency flood response effort

Image of Shabelle River from ©CNES (2021), Distribution Airbus DS/Spot Image

Satellites and new technology have proven to be game changers in FAO’s emergency efforts over the past years.  Remote-sensing tools continue to help FAO to lead the way and break new ground in terms of reaching remote rural or previously inaccessible areas, especially in times of COVID-19.  These tools not only inform rescue and response operations, they promote flood preparedness and contingency planning. In addition to the mapping of riverbank breakages, SWALIM monitors areas of potential flooding along the Juba and Shabelle rivers using very high resolution satellite images; this information plays a vital role in assisting local authorities and communities in both closing the open breakages and monitoring potential new ones. Moreover, when the floods are likely to occur, SWALIM activates its early warning Digniin system, sending SMS alert messages to to the riverine communities at high risk.      

“This funding underpins an agreement between FAO and Airbus which gives the flexibility of tasking very high-resolution images in a very short window of time, allowing SWALIM to gather information on flooded areas in almost real time. This means that we will be able to enhance our effectiveness in coping with flood emergencies,” noted Ugo Leonardi, SWALIM Technical Adviser.