Climate change has worsened East Africa’s drought

MALINDI, Kenya (AP) — The ongoing drought in East Africa has been exacerbated by human-induced climate change, which has also made it much more likely to happen in the first place, an international team of climate scientists concluded.

The report Wednesday came from World Weather Attribution, a group that seeks to quickly determine whether some extreme weather events have been impacted by climate change. Nineteen scientists from seven nations assessed how climate change affected rainfall in the region.

“Climate change has caused low rainfall in the region,” said Joyce Kimutai, chief meteorologist at Kenya’s Meteorological Department. “Climate change has made drought exceptional.”

The scientists analyzed historical weather data, including changes in the two major rainfall patterns in the region along with computer model simulations dating back to the 1800s. They found that the long rainy season, from March to May, was getting drier and the short rainy season, typically October to December, was getting wetter due to climate change. They called the region’s experience with the drought “one of a kind.”

Friederike Otto, senior climate scientist at Imperial College London and leader of the study, said it underscored how the effects of climate change ‘depend heavily on how vulnerable we are’.

While climate change has made droughts more frequent and extreme in the Horn region, scientists acknowledged that previous failed rainy seasons, high temperatures, conflict, state fragility and poverty are also responsible for the “devastating impacts “.

The United Nations has said more than 20 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda and South Sudan have been affected by the drought, with more than 2.2 million displaced in Somalia and Ethiopia and severe maternal risks for hundreds of thousands of pregnant or breastfeeding women. .

Rod Beadle, chief of relief and humanitarian affairs at Food for the Hungry, said nearly 15 million children were exposed to acute malnutrition.

“Despite recent rains in northern Kenya, the pressure of previous failed seasons creates a dire situation. The flood affected livestock and many shepherds lost their main livelihoods. Drought conditions have resulted in heavily compacted soils that cannot absorb water; therefore the floods are more severe. The country is also facing severe outbreaks of cholera and other diseases as more refugees arrive,” Beadle said.

Development gains in the countries have been offset by a long history of natural disasters, famine and disease, said Guyo Malicha Roba, a food security expert who heads the Jameel Observatory, which works on food insecurity issues in the nations of the world. arid.

Roba said the food situation in the region’s drylands was being addressed by fundraising and food distributions from governments and humanitarian partners, but more work needs to be done to use early warning systems to respond more quickly to “food shocks”.


The Associated Press’s climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. Learn more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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