Tropical Cyclone Sagar is churning through the Gulf of Aden and is expected to make landfall on the coast of the Horn of Africa and parts of southern Yemen on Saturday, bringing with it high winds and heavy rainfall.
Direct Relief is in the process of moving medical material aid into the region which may be used by storm impacted communities in the coming weeks. Five pallets of hospital and fistula treatment-related medications and supplies are headed for Edna Adan Hospital in Somaliland, which is in the center of the predicted storm path.
A 40-foot container of medical goods is also bound for Borama Fistula Hospital in Borama, Somaliland, and for the maternity hospital in Tog Wajalleh, which is the only functional hospital in that area and may see a significant influx of patients, depending on the flooding impact.
A second container of medical products from Direct Relief arrived in the port of Aden in Yemen a few weeks ago, with another departing from Direct Relief’s warehouse this past Tuesday. These shipments contain mostly cholera prevention and treatment drugs and supplies as well as emergency response backpacks intended for use by partner organization Yemen Aid.
Cyclones in this part of the world are considered rare given the hot dry air which normally flows out over the Arabian peninsula and acts as a natural wall against storm formation. In this case, however, communities from southern Yemen into Djibouti, Somaliland and Somalia are expected to receive deluges equal to nearly a year’s worth of their total rainfall in only a few days, which would trigger high risk of flooding and landslides for some of the most vulnerable communities in Africa.
Current predictions are that six inches of rain could fall on the parched landscape of Somaliland just on Saturday. In many other parts of the world this might be a routine event, but the Horn of Africa is not only home to hundreds of thousands of people living in extreme poverty, it is also an area in extreme drought which limits the ability of the land itself to absorb large amounts of rainfall over a short time period.
In addition to the physical risk from extreme precipitation, there is significant concern that the sudden onset of wet conditions in the countries which border the Gulf of Aden may trigger a return of the epidemic cholera conditions which have prevailed throughout Yemen for nearly the past 18 months.
Yemen has been torn by conflict for the past few years, which contributed to a cholera epidemic that has been described by the World Health Organization as “the worst cholera outbreak in the world” affecting over 1 million people. The rate of new cases has slowed considerably since the onset of the dry season in January, but Cyclone Sagar would bring those more favorable conditions to an end, enabling a resurgence of this deadly disease.