Home | News    Tuesday 29 August 2006

Horn of Africa: Effects of drought persist despite rainfall

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Aug 28, 2006 (NAIROBI) — The March-May rainfall in most of the areas of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia that had suffered drought was insufficient to restore food security and residents would continue to need emergency humanitarian support until the end of 2006, according to early warning agencies.

The June-September rains in the Greater Horn of Africa have, however, been normal or above-normal, leading to serious flooding in Ethiopia and some parts of Kenya and Somalia, according to an August report by the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net) and several partners. Massive flooding has killed more than 600 people and caused widespread destruction in many places this month.

While humanitarian assistance and rainfall in March, April and May helped to bring some improvements in food security in the Horn of Africa areas hit by drought between October 2005 and March 2006, most pastoral and agropastoral households continue to face a food security crisis, according to the report.

There was not enough rain in many of these areas for crop production and pasture regeneration, while food and incomes from livestock were curtailed by the loss of livestock and poor calving because of the drought. "In addition, these areas continue to face high malnutrition rates, worsened by poor health and hygiene conditions, while civil insecurity continues to complicate the situation, particularly in Somalia," according to FEWS Net. The drought affected an estimated 11 million people in eastern Africa.

In Ethiopia’s pastoral areas, despite the largely favourable March-May rains and humanitarian assistance, most of the population continues to face serious food insecurity, with pastoralists in the southern zones of the Somali Region and those living in drought-prone lowlands the worst affected. Their situation has been worsened by abnormally high cereal prices, high malnutrition levels, civil insecurity, floods and delayed or insufficient emergency responses. About two million people will continue to need emergency assistance until the year-end.

In northwestern Kenya, some unseasonal rains were reported in early August, which would be beneficial, particularly in Turkana, Samburu and Marsabit districts, where scarcity of water and pasture due to insufficient March-May rains had forced herders into abnormally early migrations.

In Somalia, the food security and humanitarian situation, particularly in southern and central regions, continues to be at crisis level, despite ongoing humanitarian interventions and the March-May rains, which improved water and pasture availability and crop and livestock conditions, the report said. The rains were, however, largely insufficient.

Pastoralists have lost significant numbers of livestock, which makes recovery slow. Continuing insecurity and persistent malnutrition have exacerbated the situation and if current tensions result in widespread conflict, the total number of people facing a humanitarian crisis in Somalia could double. An estimated 1.4 million people in north, central and southern Somalia continue to face a humanitarian emergency or acute food and livelihood crises.

Djibouti is facing a severe shortage of pastures and water and there has been a delay in onset of the long rains. Urban households are experiencing higher prices for foodstuffs, mainly because of the rising cost of oil. Malnutrition rates are expected to rise, said the report.

(IRIN)

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