The east African countries of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, are reportedly on the ‘brink of catastrophe’ as the region faces yet another unusually long and severe drought, causing as many as 20 million people to suffer from food shortage and extreme hardship.
With three rainy seasons having skipped the area of the Horn of Africa, the easternmost peninsula in Africa, scientists as well as relief agencies fear that the upcoming rain forecast may also fail to materialize.
If that happens, it will be the longest period of drought the region would have gone through in the last four decades, caused largely by climate change, which brought with it a series of extreme weather events to a region that is ill-equipped to survive them.
Before 1999, the region would experience two rainy seasons in a year, but would go through a period of drought every five to six years if any one season failed. However, after 1999, poor March to May rains are being observed every two to three years.
While one failed rainy season would cause hardships, two consecutive failed rainy seasons could create famine. This was seen in Somalia between 2010 and 2011 where back-to-back droughts occurred, causing 260,000 deaths with half of them being children.
Michael Dunford, Regional Director for the East African Bureau, UN World Food Programme (WFP), says that the east African region is beset with conflict, having 4.6 million refugees with over 11 million displaced internally across the region.
Even though WFP has ramped up its efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance by cash and food distribution, Dunford believes that the famine has struck at a challenging time, following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dunford also stated that food insecure people in the area have doubled since the pandemic, and donor countries, who just recovered from COVID, are facing more issues due to Ukraine’s invasion by Russia.
WFP has extended its support, apart from financial and food aid, by investing in infrastructure, such as in boreholes to maximize water accessibility, and terracing lands to improve its productivity.