Going into 2018, a major food security Emergency is expected to continue within East Africa, following very poor rainfall, the second consecutive below-average season in many areas. The start of the rain season was delayed by up to 40 days across the Horn of Africa, with rainfall totals less than 70% of average in much of the region. In some areas of Somalia and Ethiopia rainfall was less than 50 percent of the seasons average. Many areas of Somalia, Ethiopia, and northern Kenya are facing drought conditions that have persisted for 12 months or more. . Over twenty five million people have been affected within the region (Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan) with fifteen million children in the region are facing health risks due to on-going drought and insecurity.
The region suffered below average rainfall during the last three months of 2016 and again in March, April and May of 2017, reducing crop production. The resulting food shortage and a rise in prices left some 18 million people across Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya in a situation of “acute food insecurity,”
The regeneration of pasture and water resources for pastoralists has been well below normal The droughts have also resulted in loss of livestock and livelihood for many families whose herds perish in the dry conditions. Reports suggest many families have lost up to 60% of their livestock during the current crisis. During the coming months, the significant limitations on agriculture and livestock production will continue to have an impact on household food access within the region.
Whilst harvests in July did improve food access, improvements were short-lived due to well below-average production overall for the period and no harvest again until January 2018. Among pastoral households, significant time is required for livestock herd sizes and productivity to improve and food access to return to normal. During this time, the potential for displacement of households within the region is a major worry.
Figures from Actionaid estimate in Somalia 6.2 million people urgently need humanitarian aid. 363,000 children are malnourished, and 1.1 million people are internally displaced. In Ethiopia 5.6 million people urgently need food aid. 300,000 people have been displaced, and 228,000 children have been forced to drop out of school because of the drought.
In East Africa, the Disasters Emergency Committee, which ActionAid is a member of, estimates that 16 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance across South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.
Scientists are warning that the Horn of Africa may have to endure another dry season and more food insecurity because of weather patterns in the Pacific Ocean.
During August water temperatures in the east central Pacific began to dip below average, increasing the likelihood of a La Niña developing in the coming months.
Climatologists are predicting there is a >55 to 60 percent chance that rainfall in October, November, and December will be negatively affected.
The combination of La Nina conditions in the eastern Pacific and warm conditions in the western Pacific could result in yet another poor rain season within East Africa.
Should this occur, it would mark the fourth consecutive season of below-average rainfall for many areas which could make things worse then what was experienced in 2011 – 2012, which was one of the worst droughts in recent African history, killing an estimated 260,000 people.
Photo credit: United Nations Photo via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND