Poor rains across East Africa have worsened hunger and left crops scorched, pastures dry, and thousands of livestock dead, according to an alert released by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The most affected areas, which received less than half of their normal seasonal rainfall, are central and southern Somalia, southeastern Ethiopia, northern and eastern Kenya, northern Tanzania, and northeastern and southwestern Uganda.
The alert issued by FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) warns that the third consecutive failed rainy season has seriously eroded families’ resilience, and urgent and effective livelihood support is required.
“This is the third season in a row that families have had to endure failed rains—they are simply running out of ways to cope,” said Dominique Burgeon, FAO’s director of emergencies. “Support is needed now before the situation rapidly deteriorates further.”
The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in the five aforementioned countries, currently estimated at about 16 million, has increased by about 30% since late 2016. In Somalia, almost half of the total population is food insecure. Timely humanitarian assistance has averted famine so far but must be sustained. Conditions across the region are expected to further deteriorate in the coming months with the onset of the dry season and an anticipated early start of the lean season.
In several cropping areas across the region, poor rains have caused sharp reductions in planting, and wilting of crops currently being harvested. Despite some late rainfall in May, damage to crops is irreversible.
In addition, fall armyworm, which has caused extensive damage to maize crops in southern Africa, has spread to the east and has worsened the situation. In Kenya, the pest has so far affected about 200,000 hectares of crops, and in Uganda more than half the country’s 111 districts are affected.