The current global El Niño event is considered one of the strongest on record. In Sudan, El Niño has significantly impacted the 2015 rainy season with delayed rains, below-average rainfall and intermittent dry spells. This has caused reduced cultivation areas, delayed planting, poor pastures and limited water availability for both people and their livestock. These impacts are threatening essential agricultural and livestock production across Sudan.
The warning signs of a slow-onset disaster are present– crops that didn’t mature, fodder shortages, depleting water resources, distress sales and depressed livestock prices, increased prices for basic food commodities and resourcebased tensions between farmers and herders. There is now a high chance of poor harvest and livestock losses in 2016, the scale and the impact of which is difficult to estimate at this time.
Currently, there are an estimated 3.5 million people in 82 localities across Abyei PCA, Al Gezira, Blue Nile, all Darfur states, Gedaref, Kassala, all Kordofan states, Red Sea, Sennar and White Nile states who have already been affected by El Niño and are in need of support. Without a rapid and robust response focusing on preparedness, mitigation and resilience measures, these people are likely to suffer from significant increases of food insecurity and malnutrition that could overwhelm national disaster and social protection response capacity.
This Mitigation and Preparedness Plan has been prepared jointly with the Government of Sudan to outline the current and anticipated humanitarian impact driven by El Niño and act as a catalyst for action now for the coming three months. The next three months offer a critical window to mitigate the impacts of El Niño in Sudan and increase preparedness within the localities most affected so far.
Sudan’s humanitarian community is now moving forward with this plan in order to build on existing capacities in an effort to prevent the deterioration of the humanitarian situation for those most vulnerable to the effects of El Niño.
El Niño in Sudan
Between 1980 and 2014, over 203 million people living in Eastern Africa have been affected by droughts, including 59.5 million people in Sudan. Historically, El Niño has driven rainfall shortages and drought across Sudan during the main rainy season (June to September). Over the last 30 years, Sudan has been affected by five moderate-tostrong El Niño events, in which rainfall shortages and/ or droughts of different magnitudes were reported: 1986/87, 1991/92, 1997/98, 2002/03 and 2009/10.
The impacts of the current El Niño are already being observed. The strength of the current El Niño is comparable to the strongest El Niño events during the past 50 years, including those in 1982/83 and 1997/98. The past year’s poor rainy season has already had serious impacts on agricultural production, food prices and the availability of pasture and water.
In Sudan, food security and water supply are heavily dependent on rainfall. Approximately 70 per cent of Sudan’s rural population rely on traditional rainfed agriculture for their food and income, and over 80 per cent of Sudan’s population rely on rainfall for their water supply requirements. Mitigating the impacts of El Niño for affected communities is especially important in light of the reliance of communities on predictable rainfall and agricultural yields in Sudan. Lessons learned from past El Niño events emphasize the need for preparedness and early measures to mitigate anticipated impacts outlined below and to protect the food security, health and wellbeing of vulnerable families throughout 2016 and beyond.
Sudan’s 2015 rainy season (June to September) started a month late and was characterized by high rainfall variability, below-average rains and intermittent dry spells. Rainfall was between 25 and 95 per cent of average and varied widely between different states, with the Darfur states, Eastern Sudan and the Kordofan states most affected by below-average rains. Consequently, many crops were planted 4-8 weeks late across most of Sudan’s rainfed agricultural areas and just 65 per cent of the planned cultivation area was planted. Crops may not have had enough time with sufficient soil moisture to reach maturity and there are high chances of poor harvests across Sudan’s rainfed agricultural zones.
There is also an unusually low availability of good-quality pasture and forage in wet-season grazing areas across the country for this time of year. Pasture and water will be less available than usual from now until June 2016. Lack of pasture prompted early livestock migration to dry-season grazing areas in southern parts of the country in August and September 2015, instead of in October and November 2015 when this migration normally takes place. This has caused crop destruction due to reasons including the use of different migratory routes that has led to livestock intruding on agricultural land, increased resource-based tensions between farmers and cattle herders and among cattle herders over access to grazing. Theses tensions could intensify over the driest months from March to May 2016.
There are already indications of rising tensions reported across Darfur over early migration and crop destruction by camels and cattle.
Localized livestock disease outbreaks have been reported in border areas and the earlier migration of livestock has made seasonal vaccination campaigns difficult to implement.
Reports indicate that livestock body conditions are belowaverage due to poor pasture in many regions affected by rainfall shortage.
There is also a significant fodder gap with limited availability of post-harvest residues due to reduced planting areas and crop losses. Fodder shortages have disrupted animal migration routes across many areas in Sudan. Distress sales have depressed livestock prices in markets across Eastern Sudan. This will reduce the incomegenerating capacity of local herders and make it more difficult for vulnerable families to meet their basic needs.
Water availability issues extend to local communities that have seen their water sources drying up at an alarming rate. Field reports indicate that more than 200 haffir dams have dried, especially in Red Sea, North Darfur and North Kordofan states. In Darfur, boreholes are either drying up or posting low water yields. In Abyei PCA area, the Bahar Al-Arab river is reported to be dry in most places, which has led the Miseria tribe to start their migration earlier than usual, in October instead of February. The high rate of abstraction of water from rain-dependent aquifers in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in North and South Darfur is reducing water levels, as per ground water monitoring data. Similarly, areas with high livestock concentration will lead to increased water depletion rates.
In South Darfur, the movement of already thousands of livestock has already been observed and is putting stress on existing water supply systems.
Many communities are also more vulnerable to health risks. Extremely dry conditions driven by El Niño can cause mosquitoes to flourish. Vector-borne disease transmission is also sensitive to temperature fluctuations, with steadily warm temperatures causing mosquitoes to become infectious more quickly. Shortly after the rainy season, there was an unusual increase in malaria and viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF) cases in Darfur in October due to increased vector density and mosquito breeding sites. Displaced people and recent returnees in Sudan are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events that aggravate food and water scarcities. The protracted displacement crisis in Sudan has further exacerbated and weakened the capacity of IDPs, returnees and host communities to recover from rainfall shortages, poor harvest and poor livestock health
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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