East Africa on verge of worst drought in decades

Agricultural workers in the east and Horn of Africa are preparing for their most severe drought in forty years, as authorities warn that higher temperatures and less than normal rainfall were recorded by weather agencies in March and April this year

FPJ Web Desk | Updated on: Thursday, April 14, 2022, 12:32 PM IST

The tents of people displaced by drought are seen at the Higlo camp for the internally-displaced in the Shabelle Zone of the Somali region of Ethiopia on Monday, April 11, 2022 | AP
The tents of people displaced by drought are seen at the Higlo camp for the internally-displaced in the Shabelle Zone of the Somali region of Ethiopia on Monday, April 11, 2022 | AP

In November 2021, scientists at the Famine Early Warning System Network sent out a warning that an unprecedented drought in the Horn of Africa was imminent if poor seasonal rainfall continued into 2022. Tragically, their prediction is turning out to be prescient.

East Africa, and in particular, parts of Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya, are experiencing the driest conditions and hottest temperatures since satellite record-keeping began. As a result, as many as 13 million people are currently experiencing acute food and water shortages and a projected 25 million will face a similar fate by mid-2022.

Scientists are blaming climate change for the current crisis in a part of the world that is least able to cope. Africa as a whole contributes to about two to three per cent of global emissions that cause global warming and climate change.

However, the continent suffers the heaviest impacts of the climate crisis, including increased heatwaves, severe droughts and catastrophic cyclones, like the ones that hit Mozambique and Madagascar in recent years.

Furthermore, scientists project things will only get worse for Africa if current trends continue. According to the 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, “key development sectors have already experienced widespread loss and damage attributable to anthropogenic climate change, including biodiversity loss, water shortages, reduced food production, loss of lives and reduced economic growth.”

An estimated 13 million people are waking up severely hungry every day in the Horn of Africa, as the region grapples with a major drought caused by the driest conditions since 1981, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Tuesday.

Three consecutive failed rainy seasons in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, have decimated crops and caused abnormally high livestock deaths, while, shortages of water and pasture are forcing families from their homes and triggering conflict between communities.

Aid organizations are already concerned about how worsening climate change impacts will affect the region in future decades.

“This is not the Horn’s first drought, nor is it likely to be its last,” said Sean Granville-Ross, the regional director for Africa for the aid agency Mercy Corps. “As the climate emergency worsens, droughts will become more frequent and severe. People affected by climate change cannot wait for one crisis to end before preparing for the next.”

“The international response must prioritize immediate needs while allocating additional resources to long-term, smart interventions that will result in long-term change and assist communities in becoming more drought-resistant.”

The U.N. humanitarian office warned last week that the current drought “risks becoming one of the worst climate induced emergencies in recent history in the Horn of Africa.” It also said that the $1.5 billion drought response appeal required to assist some 5.5 million people in Somali remains seriously underfunded.

(with inputs from AP)

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Published on: Thursday, April 14, 2022, 12:33 PM IST