Horn of Africa facing worst drought in more than a decade

Depressed rainfall and high temperatures are forecast for March-to-May season

Saito Ene Ruka (R) who said he had lost 100 cows to drought, and his neighbour Kesoi Ole Tingoe, who lost 40, near Lake Magadi, Kenya. AP
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Rain is expected to elude the Horn of Africa for the sixth straight season, leading to a drought worse than a decade ago in which 260,000 people were killed in Somalia alone.

Depressed rainfall and high temperatures are forecast for the March-to-May season, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) said.

The area comprises Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti, more broadly including all or parts of Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan.

The crucial three month-period typically contributes as much as 60 per cent of annual rainfall in the equatorial part of the Greater Horn of Africa, that also includes Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania.

The outlook confirms the fears of meteorologists and aid agencies who have warned of an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe as the longest and most-severe drought sweeps the region.

"In parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda that have been most affected by the recent drought, this could be the sixth failed consecutive rainfall season," said ICPAC.

The Nairobi-based group is the designated regional climate centre by the World Meteorological Organisation.

Delegates in Kenyan capital Nairobi for the 63rd Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum said the March-to-May forecast predicts low rainfall and high temperatures.

In parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda most affected by the recent drought, it could be yet another failed rainfall season.

The probability for a drier spell is also enhanced for parts of Rwanda, Burundi, eastern Tanzania and western South Sudan, said ICPAC.

It said wetter conditions were expected over the cross-border areas of Ethiopia and South Sudan, north-western Kenya and parts of central and southern Tanzania.

And warmer temperatures are likely across the region, particularly over Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, north-western South Sudan, southern and north-eastern Ethiopia, northern Somalia, northern and western Kenya and parts of south-eastern and western Tanzania.

Worse than region's harshest for 60 years?

ICPAC director Guleid Artan said: “Even if the general conditions for the season do not look favourable, people can still take advantage of rainfall. This is why I urge all to consult our weekly and monthly forecasts, which have a high degree of predictability.”

In the regions severely hit by drought, trends are worse than those observed during the drought of 2010-11, ICPAC said, when more than 13 million people were affected by famine in the worst drought for 60 years.

Close to 23 million people are currently highly food insecure in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, according to the region's Food Security and Nutrition Working Group.

Updated: February 23, 2023, 11:25 AM