East Africa: Fifth Failed Rainy Season Looms for Greater Horn Region

Geneva — Drought-ridden parts of the Greater Horn region are bracing for a fifth successive failed rainy season, which will aggravate the crisis in the region, impacting millions and bringing starvation to many, say United Nations agencies.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) spokesperson Clare Nullis said at a UN press conference on Friday that different humanitarian agencies are dealing with the “terrible drought in the Horn of Africa.”

“Unfortunately, you’re going to hear even more in the coming weeks and months because the drought is set to continue,” said Nullis.

A WMO forecast for the period October to December predicts  high chances of drier than average conditions across most parts of the region. The forecast was issued by a session of the Greater Horn of Africa Seasonal Climate Outlook Forum, a body that brings together climate scientists, meteorological agencies, humanitarian organizations and user communities.

Longest-lasting drought in 40 years

“In particular, the drought-affected areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are expected to receive significantly below normal rainfall totals until the end of the year,” said Nullis.

She said that the drought is the longest-lasting in 40 years.

“Last month, humanitarian agencies and IGAD (the East African regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development) raised the alarm on the number of people suffering from acute food insecurity in 2022 in the Greater Horn of Africa. This number stands at over 50 million,” said Nullis.

The October to December rainy season contributes up to 70 percent of the annual total rainfall in the equatorial parts of the Greater Horn of Africa, particularly in eastern Kenya.

Rainy season expected to be delayed

The rainfall deficits are likely to extend to parts of Eritrea, most of Uganda and Tanzania, as the International Programme for Action on Climate (IPAC) estimates that the start of the rainy season is likely to be delayed across much of the eastern parts of the region.

Djibouti, the eastern Afar region of Ethiopia, and central to north-eastern South Sudan could receive above-average precipitation, said Nullis.

Temperatures are expected to remain warmer than average across most of the region.

The 62nd session of the Climate Outlook Forum was convened by the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) in collaboration with national meteorological and hydrological services in the region and other partners.

WHO focuses on health crisis

World Health Organization media officer Carla Drysdale said while other partners are focusing on the food crisis, WHO is focusing on the resulting health crisis.

“Acting now means we can save millions of lives. WHO is on the ground, responding urgently to ensure access to basic health services; provide treatment for severe malnutrition; and detect, prevent and respond to disease outbreaks.”

WHO’s response focuses on seven affected countries: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda. There are close to 300 million people living in this region.

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