Mar 05, 2008

Africa: Millions Threatened by Drought

One of the worst droughts to hit the Horn of Africa is spreading and with it the risk that millions of lives may be at risk.

One of the worst droughts to hit the Horn of Africa is spreading and with it the risk that millions of lives may be at risk.

Below is an article published by IRIN News:

Up to 14 million people in the greater Horn of African region are expected to suffer under harsh weather conditions in the next three months [April-July 2008] that threaten food security, according to climate specialists meeting in Kampala, the Ugandan capital.

Experts under the regional body, the IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] Climate Prediction and Application Centre, urged governments to take immediate action to protect the region.

Professor Laban Ogallo, head of the centre, based in Kenya, said that unless governments took steps to stem the impact of the impending conditions, development targets would not be met. “Lack of rain should not bring about a crisis if people in policy management take the advice we are offering. These climatic conditions can forestall whatever they want to do on development,” he said.

“It is estimated that between 11 million and 14 million people, or 10 percent of the regional population, will be affected. Pastoralist communities are going to be the most vulnerable and this may cause conflict as these communities move from their areas to look for water and pasture,” said Patrick Luganda, the media official of the Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum.

Luganda said the cattle corridor of the region would experience tension as most of it is forecast to experience dry spells, putting pressure on available water and pasture. Other agricultural areas are also expected to suffer as a result. “We forecast tension between cattle keepers in Kenya and those in Uganda. Kenya will be drier so these communities will try to move while those in northeastern Uganda will move further inland. This will bring about conflicts over water, pasture and over animals,” Luganda said.

Much of Somalia, eastern, central and southern Ethiopia, as well as much of Kenya and southern Sudan is expected to be affected.

Whereas much of Uganda is likely to have near-normal or above-normal rainfall, the southwestern region will experience harsh conditions. Areas such as southwestern and eastern Sudan, western Ethiopia, southwestern Kenya, extreme southern Burundi, as well as northern, western and southwestern Tanzania, are also likely to have near-normal or above-normal rainfall.

However, because of the political crisis in Kenya that has kept many people in camps, they have not tended to their farms and this threatens food security in the east African country, according to Luganda.

“This outlook may help governments to plan better as it tells them which areas are safe and which will need help,” Luganda said.

The specialists noted, however, that despite the expectation of poor rainfall, “episodic wet spells and flash floods could occur” over areas expected to be dry. Flash floods over the east African region displaced thousands last year [2007] and compromised food security.