El Niño leaves hunger in its wake
Lou Del Bello
An estimated 10.2 million people are now food insecure in Ethiopia, as a result of an exceptional drought exacerbated by the El Niño event that began last year. The situation not only in the country but also across the whole of East Africa is predicted to worsen in coming months.
After peaking in late December, the warming El Niño phenomenon is slowly fading, with Pacific Ocean surface temperatures starting to decrease. But as public attention declines, a food crisis brought about by last year’s erratic weather is fast becoming an emergency.
East Africa, and Ethiopia in particular, has experienced reduced rainfall in 2015. This has been disastrous for farmers and herders. Aid agencies have described this crisis as the most severe in 30 years — and many warn that the worst is yet to come.
According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network: “Poor households in southern Afar and northern Somali regions are already experiencing acutefood insecurity, and the breadth and severity of impacts in central and eastern Ethiopia are expected to expand through much of 2016.”
The consequences of a lack of rain between June and September will be seen between now and March, during the main cropping season in northern East Africa. Traditionally, January marks the start of the harvesting period, when markets are usually replenished, but this year’s yields are predicted to be dire, and fodder scarce.
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