Drought forecast spells misery in the Horn of Africa

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A woman holds her 9-month-old baby accompanied by her other children outside their makeshift tent on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia on June 4. FARAH ABDI WARSAMEH/AP

Hope for an imminent end to the devastating drought in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia has faded after experts warned of a fifth straight failed rainy season.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network said in a statement on Monday that the next rainy season in October, November and December is also likely to fail, threatening to make an already dire situation catastrophic.

The network said the current four-season drought, which has been compounded by the effects of ongoing conflicts, COVID-19, price spikes and locusts, could leave millions of people in eastern Horn of Africa facing famine.

At least 18.4 million people in the three countries are experiencing severe food insecurity, including more than 7.1 million acutely malnourished children, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

The UN agency said 4.1 million Kenyans face crisis or emergency level food insecurity, up from 3.5 million a few months ago.

Cases of malnutrition

In addition, cases of malnutrition are increasing at an alarming rate, with at least 942,000 children under 5 and some 134,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women in need of urgent treatment.

Faced with worsening food shortages, humanitarian organizations have called for an urgent and immediate increase in funding.

The UN agency said just over a third of those targeted in Ethiopia received food aid in the latest round of distributions, which began in October.

Global and regional weather groups have described this year’s failed March-April-May rainy season in the region as unprecedented and likely to be the driest on record due to a combination of persistence, intensity, extent and heat.

“From a climatic perspective alone, this drought has been exceptionally intense,” said Kiersten Johnson, team leader of the Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

Taking into account all the other simultaneous shocks, including regional conflicts and the increased global costs of food, fuel and fertilizers following the conflict in Ukraine, the impacts are devastating, she added. .

A joint statement last week from the Center for Climate Prediction and Applications, the Joint Research Center of the European Commission, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Early Warning Systems Network Famine Relief and the World Food Program said a multi-agency assessment found below-normal rains are likely. in October, November and December.

The forecast is for an east-west temperature gradient in the Indian Ocean and an east-west temperature gradient in the Pacific Ocean, associated with La Nina conditions. He said nearly 1.5 million head of livestock, especially cattle and sheep, died in Kenya between October 2021 and March this year.

In Somalia, more than 3 million head of cattle have died since mid-2021, and livestock mortality rates are expected to reach at least 10-30% by September.

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