Kenya + 8 more

Greater Horn of Africa: Weather outlook poor in some drought-affected areas

NAIROBI, 4 March (IRIN) - Based on climatic conditions during January, and analysis of weather data and systems, there is increased likelihood of near- to above-normal rainfall in much of eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa from March to May, according to the latest Drought Monitoring Bulletin from the Drought Monitoring Centre, Nairobi.
However, in certain parts - including some that have suffered persistent rain failures in recent years - the probability was for below-normal rainfall, according to the report, received by IRIN on Monday.

March to May constitutes an important rainfall season over equatorial parts of the Greater Horn of Africa subregion.

Meteorological experts and climate outlook-users from water, livestock, agriculture and health sectors in the eastern Africa subregion helped develop the forecast and identify its implications during the ninth Climate Outlook Forum in Eldoret, Kenya, in mid-February.

The incidence of normal- to above-normal rainfall is likely in much of Kenya and Uganda, northern Tanzania, southern and central Sudan, Somalia, the eastern half of Ethiopia, western Eritrea, as well as Rwanda and Burundi, between March and May, according to the bulletin.

The positive aspects of that could include normal to above normal agricultural and livestock production, adequate water supply for domestic and industrial use, and stable hydroelectric power supply, it said.

However, there could also be localised flooding, an increase in water-related diseases, especially malaria, soil erosion and landslides and severe, potentially damaging, storms, the report added.

Results from the global ocean climatic modelling system suggested that there was the potential for an El-Nino type weather system, but the situation regarding this would be clearer towards May, as regional and time variations could still occur, according to the bulletin.

Torrential rain blamed on the El Nino phenomenon caused considerable human suffering and loss of life, as well as devastating economic loss, in the region (especially in Kenya and Somalia) in 1997-98.

In other parts of the Greater Horn of Africa, the probability was for below-normal rainfall, according to the March-May forecast. These included the northwest of Kenya and the country's northern coast, southern Somalia, northeastern Uganda, southern Tanzania and northern parts of southern Sudan, it said.

Deteriorating vegetation conditions continued to be observed over most parts of Somalia, northern Kenya and southwestern Ethiopia, it said.

The dismal short rains had been devastating for many people in these affected areas, the impact including: pastoralists moving further and further in search of pasture; declining livestock numbers; poor health among pastoralists and their livestock; poor food security and high poverty levels for those affected; and, insecurity and conflicts over limited water and pasture, the Drought Monitoring Bulletin stated.

For people in these parts, the climate outlook presaged severe shortages of food, water and fodder/pasture for livestock, poor sanitation, and likely crop failures in agro-pastoral areas, it added.

The outlook will especially concern local government and humanitarian workers in northern Kenya and southern Somalia, where prolonged drought conditions have already caused considerable hardship for people and livestock, and seriously weakened people's coping mechanisms - leaving many wholly reliant on emergency relief.

These areas (among others) had now experienced drought for several rainy seasons so that "the impacts of the accumulated rainfall deficits may be exacerbated," according to the Drought Monitoring Bulletin.

[ENDS]

[This Item is Delivered to the English Service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: Irin@ocha.unon.org or Web: http://www.irinnews.org . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Reposting by commercial sites requires written IRIN permission.]

Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2002