This season second driest in recorded history, food security body warns of impending famine

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March-April 2019 Rainfall: Rank amongst 1981 – 2019 (Driest = 1) Source: ICPAC WFR Forecast)

By Luganda David, NECJOGHA

A group which provides early warning systems and analyses of the food situation in more than 20 countries in the world has said that the month of April this year was the second driest month of April in recorded history.

 “The season to date is among the top two driest on record in northern Somalia and isolated parts of eastern Uganda, western Kenya, and southeastern Ethiopia, though recent moderate to heavy rainfall in southeastern Ethiopia may begin to ease dryness in this region. This marks the second consecutive poor season in the region after the poor October to December 2018 Deyr/short rains season, resulting in cumulative deficits of 30 percent or more since October,” a statement of the food situation in East Africa released this week by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS-NET) says.

Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 28 countries.

In April, FEWS NET released an alert detailing the poor progress of the March to June 2019 Gu/long rains season in East Africa and expected deterioration in food security conditions across the region. Since then, rainfall has remained well below average and has performed worse than previously expected, with the exception of southeastern Ethiopia where heavy rainfall in mid-May could begin to ease dryness in that area. Only light rainfall is forecast through June, however, and this is not expected to alleviate drought in affected areas of Kenya and Somalia.

FEWS NET warns that worsening food security and nutritional outcomes are likely between June and September in many parts of the Horn of Africa as below-average 2019 long/Gu rains result in a second consecutive poor season across the region.

“Adding to the food security concerns, household resilience, particularly for agro-pastoralists and pastoralists, is atypically low at this time as many have not fully recovered their livelihoods after the devastating impacts of the 2016/17 drought,” the statement says.

FEWS NET adds that crop production across agricultural zones of eastern Kenya, Uganda, southern Somalia, and East and West Hararghe of Ethiopia will also likely be below average during the upcoming June/July harvest.

This will likely contribute to reduced food access for poor households by lowering household and market food stocks, prolonging the period of household dependency on market purchases, and drive higher cereal prices across the region.

According to FEWS NET, though crop production is expected to be below average, the situation is slightly less concerning over western parts of the region, such as Karamoja in Uganda, as forecasts indicate rainfall in these areas will continue into the coming months.

The alert by FEWS NET followed another by another regional regional food security which warned of an impending food crisis in the Great Lakes region especially in theKaramoja region in Uganda, Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

The Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG) a regional platform mandated to provide up-to-date food security and nutrition situation analysis (early warning) in the GHA, has reported in March that around 10.7 million people are currently food insecure. FSNWG is under the IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Centre (ICPAC), a regional climate body.

FSNWG  in an alert in April urged immediate and coordinated planning by governments, donors and all concerned stakeholders to act early in responding to this expected deteriorating food security and nutrition situation through the use of crises modifiers, when applicable, and immediate activation of early action mechanisms

ICPAC’s 10-day and one-month forecasts produced by ICPAC show that the rains are expected to continue, though they will likely be below average in central and northern Somalia and much of Kenya. Projected cumulative rainfall totals for the March – May period suggest rainfall will be less than 50% of average across parts of eastern Kenya, much of southern Somalia, localized areas of northern Somalia, and the Somali region of Ethiopia.

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