East Africa Alert: August 13, 2018
Further flooding expected across East Africa throughout 2018
Well above-average March to May 2018 Gu/long rains caused significant flooding over the Eastern Horn of Africa and has been followed by heavy rainfall at the start of the June to September main rainy season in the northern part of the region (Figure 1). Flooding has already occurred in several areas and further flooding is likely through early September. Additionally, above-average October to December _Deyr/_short rains are forecast, likely resulting in a second consecutive season of flooding in the Horn of Africa. While heavy rainfall has improved crop and livestock conditions in some areas, it has caused displacement and crop loss in others. Atypically high assistance needs are expected in flood-prone areas of northern East Africa through September and in riverine and lowland areas of the Horn of Africa through December. It is estimated that up to a million people will be negatively impacted, and the majority will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) over this time.
The March to May 2018 Gu/long rains season was the wettest on record in many areas of the Eastern Horn of Africa and resulted in significant flooding. The food security impacts of this flooding were mixed. Many poor households in riverine and lowland areas were displaced, experienced significant crop losses, and are currently facing difficulty meeting their basic food needs. However, in many other areas, heavy rainfall led to significant improvements in water/pasture availability and livestock body conditions, and above-average recession cultivation, driving food security improvements.
The June to September rainy season in northern areas of East Africa is ongoing and consistent heavy rainfall since June has saturated soils and resulted in some flash floods. This has been most significant across southwestern and southeastern Sudan, parts of Afar, Gambela, and Amhara of Ethiopia, and in Greater Upper Nile, Greater Bahr el Ghazal, and Western Equatoria of South Sudan. According to the Global Forecast System and the National Meteorological Services of Ethiopia and Sudan, heavy rainfall of more than 50 millimeters per week is likely in many of these areas in August, as rains hit their seasonal peak. Based on these short-term forecasts and current soil saturation and basin levels, there is a moderate to very high risk of further flooding through early September (Figure 2).
The quantity of current and forecast rainfall during the June to September 2018 season is comparable to 2006. According to the Dartmouth Flood Observatory, three major flood events (1 in 10–20-year events) occurred between August and September 2006. Around 180,000 people were displaced and tens of thousands of hectares of cropland were destroyed. Flooding during the June to September 2018 rainy season is expected to cause similar levels of displacement and crop damage.
However, like the March to May 2018 Gu/long rains season, the food security impacts of these current heavy rains are expected to be mixed. In Sudan, South Sudan, and Ethiopia, heavy rainfall is expected to lead to above-average pasture and water availability, supporting livestock productivity, and allowing livestock to remain near homesteads longer than normal, increasing household access to milk. Average or above-average harvests are also likely in many rainfed agricultural and agropastoral areas, and floods will also increase fishing options in some areas. However, below-average harvests are likely in riverine and flood-prone lowland areas. In Sudan, further crop losses will be significant for some poor households as many have already planted lower than normal amounts due to fuel shortages and high agricultural input costs. In South Sudan, crop losses will also be significant among many households who are already expected to face below-average harvests due to conflict-related disruptions to cultivation.
Looking beyond September, the IRI/CPC consensus forecast indicates a weak to moderate El Niño is likely during the Northern Hemisphere winter, and a near-positive Indian Ocean Dipole is also likely during this time. These conditions are expected to drive above-average rainfall over the Eastern Horn between October and December 2018. As a result, a second consecutive season of atypically widespread flooding is likely across Somalia, Kenya, and southeastern Ethiopia. Similar to the March to May 2018 Gu/long rains season, average or above-average production and above-average livestock productivity are likely as a result. However, heavy rainfall is also expected to lead to displacement, the destruction of infrastructure, and crop losses in riverine and lowland areas, which will negatively impact food security in these areas. Atypically high assistance needs are expected in flood-prone areas of northern East Africa through September and in riverine and lowland areas of the Horn of Africa through at least December. It is estimated that up to a million people will be negatively impacted, many of whom will be temporarily displaced and experience crop and asset losses. Many will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through at least December.