The threat of starvation looms in East Africa after four failed rainy seasons, warned meteorological organizations together with humanitarian partners predicting that the situation is set to worsen due to forecasts of an unprecedented fifth poor rainy season between October and December.
Speaking at a news briefing at the United Nations in Geneva, spokesperson Clare Nullis from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that “meteorological agencies that includes the World Meteorological Organization, along with humanitarian partners, have issued a joint alert that the threat of starvation looms in East Africa. This is after four failed rainy seasons. We are particularly concerned that the situation is set to get worse.”
The joint alert was made by 12 organizations, including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the World Food Programme (WFP), UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Meteorological Organization, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
“In this alert, we say that the current extreme, widespread and persistent multi-season drought which is affecting Somalia, parts of Kenya and Ethiopia is unprecedented”, said Ms. Nullis.
Four consecutive rainy seasons have failed, a climatic event not seen in at least 40 years.
“The latest long-lead seasonal forecasts supported by wide community of meteorological experts indicate now that there is a very real risk that the October to December rainy season could also fail”, Ms. Nullis said. She added that “should these forecasts materialize, then the already severe humanitarian situation will further deepen.”
The 2022 March-May rainy season appears likely to be the driest on record, the impact on livelihoods, on people’s health, on life stock and on pastureland have been devastating. An estimated 3,7 million livestock have died in Kenya (1.5 million) and in Ethiopia with 2.1 million.
“The Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG), so this is a large body of experts, estimates that 16.7 million people currently face high food insecurity and projects figures to increase to 20 million by September”, said WMO’s spokesperson.
During 2020, 2021 and 2022, a multiyear La Niña contributed to less rainfall across eastern Africa which resulted in the devastating drought of East Africa in 2010-2011.
“La Niña, just like its counterpart El Niño, is part of our natural climate variability”, Clare Nullis said. “However, as with everything these days, human induced climate change is amplifying the impact. It's the elephant in every room, when we talk about climate these days.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated in their Sixth Assessment Report that there is evidence of human contribution in decreased precipitation in North-eastern Africa and increased frequency of hot extremes.
“Climate change is leading to more intense and severe extremes, and it's also increasing air temperatures, as we've seen in East Africa this year”, WMO’s spokesperson said. “So that worsens droughts because it increases the loss of moisture from plants and soil.”
The impacts in food security have also been extensive, said Clare Nullis.
“Quoting the IPCC: in Africa, agricultural productivity growth has been reduced by 34% since 1961 due to climate change, more than any other region.”