News

    Devastating East Africa Droughts Caused by Volatile Climate

    Multimedia

    Audio

    A devastating drought is threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions across an enormous swath of land in eastern Africa.  As governments and humanitarian groups seek to alleviate the suffering, observers warn an increasingly volatile climate means that portions of the region are becoming more and more inhospitable.  

    The painfully persistent drought stretches across Somalia, Djibouti, southern Ethiopia, northern and eastern Kenya, and northeastern Uganda.  The World Food Program says its latest figures collected after the recent failed long rain season show that 23 million people are in need of emergency food relief, a marked increase from its previous numbers.

    The World Food Program is describing the humanitarian situation as the worst in Somalia since 1991, and the worst drought-caused crisis in Kenya since 2000.

    Historically, droughts are nothing new to these largely arid areas of the region, and the pastoral ethnic groups moving around these lands long ago learned how to prepare and recover from the normal drought cycle.

    But the steady decline in rainfall in the region during the past two decades, combined with more frequent droughts and less predictable rainy seasons, have many worried that the current shortage of rainfall is not an isolated event but rather an indication of a new climate norm for the area.

    Emergency relief regional leader for the U.S.-based aid group World Vision, Beatrice Teya, says climate shift in the region is especially alarming.

    "The drought is becoming quite common, almost continuous, especially in the Horn of Africa, affecting Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, and parts of Uganda," said Beatrice Teya. "Like right now it seems like it is peaking, but it is a continuous problem.  And I think this is the biggest challenge, because it is not giving communities time to recover.

    The increasingly hostile climate has left the populations in a bitter struggle, not just against daily hunger, malnutrition, and thirst, but also in an annual struggle to maintain their ancient ways of life.

    For the pastoral communities that live in the area, their nomadic cattle-centered livelihood is becoming increasingly untenable.  Analysts worry of the consequences if the changing climate steadily erodes the foundation of these peoples' society.

    On Tuesday 32 people were killed, including women and children, during a cattle raid in northern Kenya between pastoral tribes.  These raids are traditionally used as a means of replenishing diminished cattle stocks, and many fear that disappearing water resources and pasture grounds will be the root of increased instability in the region during the coming years.

    But some say such skirmishes could be just one of the minor side effects of a much larger long-term catastrophe.

    Eastern Africa Environmental Network Deputy Director George Malakwen portrays a possible horror scenario of massive hordes of displaced people with nowhere to go, if the current trends continue unabated.

    "We are going to see what I can term as environmental refugees - people getting out of eastern Africa, but I do not know where they are going to go," said George Malakwen. "If this thing is so expansive - up to Sudan, up to Ethiopia, down south - where are they going to go?  That is what we are going to experience here, that eastern Africa is not going to be hospitable to human beings."

    This recent round of drought has been made worse by inflated food prices across the affected region.  Food prices in Kenya continue to sit at 100 to 130 percent greater than their normal levels.

    It is not just the local East Africans that are faltering under the economic weight of the crisis.  The World Food Program says it projects it will need nearly $1 billion for the next six months to meet the needs of the region.  It says its program cycle in Kenya has underfunded by 92 percent.

    World Food Program Spokesman Peter Smerdon says lack of funding combined with the increased frequency of emergency food crises have meant that the deeper-rooted issues in these communities have been allowed to fester.

    "What you need of course in all these places is long-term development," said Peter Smerdon. "The difficulty is when you have crises like these, that takes a lot of money to just simply keep people alive, and that is what we have to do at the moment, and we are struggling to do that.  When there is not a crisis, there is not enough money around for long-term development."

    Smerdon predicts that things are about to get worse for the region's population in the coming months, though not for reasons one might think.

    El Nino storms are expected to bring heavy rainfall to the parched lands beginning as early as October.  Although many, not surprisingly, see the expected rains as upcoming relief, Smerdon says such an outlook is just "wishful thinking."

    He says the sick cattle are likely to die from cold in the heavy torrents, whereas the scorched farming ground will be overtaken by floods.  Malaria and cholera outbreaks are also feared.

    Malakwen says he too expects El Nino rains to only exacerbate the crisis.

    "God forbid, but we are expecting major catastrophes," he said.

    The region's residents are learning that such cruel tricks of nature are now what they might have to learn to expect.   

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.