Kenya Drought, 2016


Key Points:

  • The Government of Kenya has declared the country’s drought a national emergency.
  • The areas with the lowest rainfall in this drought are in the northwest and southeast parts of the country.
  • Scientists with World Weather Attribution used multiple methods of attribution science to look at the possible roles climate change and the ENSO signal played in the drought.
  • Trends indicate that the temperatures involved in this drought are hotter than they would have been without the influence of climate change.
  • There is no detectable trend in rainfall, but the team cannot exclude small changes in the risk of poor rains linked to climate change.

The Event

For Kenyans, the distressing numbers in association with the ongoing drought continue to mount. As of February 2017, the drought has affected 23 of 47 counties. The cost of maize has risen by a third[1] in the past year, while production of the staple crop has plunged. More than two million people are in need of food aid. Estimates of severely malnourished pregnant mothers and children have topped 350,000. Approximately 175,000 children are unable to attend pre-primary and primary schools due to the drought, according to a UNICEF estimate[2]. On February 10th, 2017, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta declared a national emergency. And on March 9th, the president called for the temporary closing of schools in drought-stricken areas.

The indications of the impending drought began in 2016. Kenya receives the majority of its rainfall during two periods: the “long rains” from March, April and May (MAM) and the “short rains” from October, November and December (OND). However, in 2016 the OND rains failed. Counties in the northwest and southeast regions were particularly badly hit. The southeast also suffered from poor MAM rains.