The East and Horn of Africa are preparing for the worst drought in decades

MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) – Agricultural workers in the eastern and Horn of Africa are preparing for their most severe drought in 40 years, as authorities warn that higher temperatures and less precipitation than usual were recorded by weather agencies in March and April this year.

The intergovernmental agency for development said the rains are likely to fail for a fourth year in a row, triggering fears of increased cases of malnutrition, livelihood threats and serious risks for 29 million people in the region. Meteorologists associate the evolving drought with man-made climate change, which is leading to increased warming in the Indian Ocean, causing more frequent cyclones.

Like most of Africa, the eastern and Horn’s economic pillar is agriculture, which is rain-fed, making it vulnerable to extreme weather events. Mama Charity Kimaru, who cultivates mixed farming by raising livestock and planting grain and vegetables on her 30-acre farm in Nyandarua, about 80 miles (126 kilometers) north of Nairobi, is among the farmers preparing for the worst results. Kimaru says rising temperatures recorded over the past few months have denied her livestock grazing, and the crops she had planted in anticipation of the long rainy season have failed.

The weather bureau said earlier in February that the region should prepare for a “wetter than average” long rainy season, which usually rains from March to May, but the agency revised its earlier forecasts this week.

“The March, April and May rains are crucial for the region, and unfortunately we are looking at not just three, but potentially four consecutive failed seasons,” said Workneh Gebeyehu, the secretary general of the intergovernmental agency. “This, combined with other stressors such as conflicts in both our region and Europe, the impact of COVID-19 and macroeconomic challenges, has led to acute levels of food insecurity across the Greater Africa Horn.”

Precipitation below the 2022 average is likely to prolong the already extremely dry conditions, which have not been experienced to this degree since 1981. Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia – which will be hit hard by the reduced rainfall – are already in the midst of a severe famine.

Lack of rainfall in the short rainy season last year and the ongoing drought in the current long rainy season have already led to crop failures and livestock deaths, which has caused high food prices and inter-municipal conflicts over scarce grasslands and dwindling water resources.

“When we have intense cyclones in the southwestern Indian Ocean, we are always preparing for a long drought season in the eastern and Horn regions,” said Evans Mukolwe, the former UN scientific director. “This is because the cyclones absorb a lot of the moisture and deprive the region of the much-needed rainfall. It has been the pattern for decades.”

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

“This is not the Hornets’ first drought, nor is it likely to be the last,” said Sean Granville-Ross, Africa’s regional director for the aid organization Mercy Corps. “As the climate crisis worsens, the drought period will become more frequent and more 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 help communities become more drought-resistant.”

The UN 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 the $ 1.5 billion drought response appeal needed to help about 5.5 million people in Somali is still severely underfunded.

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