The number of food insecure people in the Horn of Africa is projected to increase to 22.1 million people by the end of 2015, while 3 million people are expected to be affected by floods.

Currently, about 12 million people – 8.2 million people in Ethiopia and 2.75 million people in South Sudan 2.75 – are in need of food assistance.

The figure is expected to rise to 22 million by December.

According to the latest El Niño report by the United Nations, the number of people in need of food aid will likely surge to 15 million and 3.9 million in Ethiopia and South Sudan, respectively. In addition, 1.1 million Kenyans, 1.3 million Sudanese, 855,000 people in Somalia, 294,000 citizens of Ugandans  and 120,000 Djiboutians are projected to require food assistance by the end of December.

The report also indicated that about 2.5 million people are “most likely” to be affected by flood. Of whom 1.3 will be in Kenya, while another 1 million in Somalia and South Sudan combined. In the worst case scenario, the figure for Kenya could rise to 2 million, the report projected.

Here are excerpts from the October 23 report by UN OCHA:

Regional Overview

Countries in the region are already seeing the impact of the El Niño climatic event. Ethiopia reports an increase in food aid beneficiaries from 2.9 million in January 2015 to 8.2 million today. Partners in Ethiopia are planning for 15 million people in need of food assistance by the first quarter of 2016. Drier than average conditions are also affecting Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti and the east of South Sudan. Localized floods caused by rains have already been reported in parts of Somalia, Western Kenya and at the Kenyan Coast.

The peak strength of this El Niño, expected between October 2015 and January 2016, coincides with the short rainfall season (October – December) in most countries in the Horn of Africa region and there is an expectation of enhanced rainfall in the south-western parts of the region (see map at the bottom).  Somalia and Kenya are preparing for possible floods and flood-related displacement. On the other hand, arid and semi-arid areas could also see favorable pasture, crop development and marginal agricultural conditions due to enhanced rainfall, useful for rebuilding livelihood assets of the pastoralist communities.

Map - Horn of Africa Expected food insecure population by Dec. 2015

Eastern Africa: Historic El Niño impact

Historically El Niño had a variable impact on the region, ranging from ­floods affecting more than 3.4 million people in 2006/2007 to drought affecting more than 14 million people in 2009/2010. While there are sub-regional differences, historical comparisons show that overall humanitarian needs in the region are higher in El Niño years than non-El Niño years. Similarly, the average overall humanitarian impact of a La Niña event is sometimes even greater, especially when it immediately follows an El Niño. For example, the 1988 ­floods affecting 2.5 million people and the 1999 drought affecting 31.5 million people were both associated with La Niña. The 2011 drought, which affected nearly 14 million people in the Horn of Africa, was also associated with La Niña. It is therefore imperative that countries continue their resilience programming for the most vulnerable, as well as preparedness and early warning activities even beyond this El Niño phenomenon.

Eastern Africa: Predicted El Niño impact

The expected impact of El Niño in the region is two-fold: (i) drought, resulting in a serious increase in food-insecure people, particularly in Ethiopia, and (ii) excessive rainfall, which could provide a boost to crop production but also cause ­flash ­floods and riverine ­flooding.

By early 2016, between 2.7 million and 3.5 million people could be affected by ­floods and at least 22 million people will be food-insecure. The sharpest increase in food insecurity is in Ethiopia, where the number of food insecure people is expected to increase from 2.9 million people at the start of 2015 to 15 million people in early 2016. Excessive rainfall could trigger outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid as well as vector-borne diseases such as malaria. There could also be an increased burden on livestock such as through Rift Valley Fever outbreaks.

Map - Horn of Africa Expected flood affected people by end 2015

The report put the following points as “key messages”

1. The number of food insecure people in the region is expected to increase by 83 per cent, from approximately 12 million people at the start of 2015, to 22.1 million people by the start of 2016. In addition, between 2.7 million and 3.5 million people could be affected by floods.

2. In Ethiopia, food and nutrition needs have already increased from 2.9 million at the beginning of 2015 to 8.2 million today. Some 15 million people will likely require food assistance in early 2016.

3. Severe and moderate acute malnutrition among children has significantly increased in Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and this trend is likely to persist over the coming months. For countries expected to be hit by drought, immediate scaling up of preventive and curative nutrition programmes targeting both the moderate and severely malnourished is critical.

4. Governments and humanitarian partners are racing against the clock to prepare for floods caused by El Niño. Sub-national preparedness, prioritization, stockpiles and logistics are key.

5. Regional coordination to address cross-border aspects of floods and droughts, such as displacement and humanitarian access, and livestock vaccination should be a priority.

6. At least US$451 million is required to ensure preparedness and response to El Niño affected people in Ethiopia ($174 m shortfall up to the end of the year, $237 m for prepositioning), Somalia ($30 m) and Kenya ($10 m). This comes on top of the existing Humanitarian Response Plans in the region, which have a collective funding gap of around $2.8 billion. Humanitarian funding assigned for 2016 should be brought forward to allow for prepositioning, existing development funding should be reviewed for potential re-programming if needed and a crisis modifier approach should be adopted.

7. Disaster risk reduction and preparedness activities should continue beyond this predicted El Niño period. The region is prone to ­floods and drought even outside El Niño years. Historic patterns also show that a La Niña event sometimes follows a El Niño, with an even greater overall humanitarian impact as coping capacities are eroded. An El Niña event, should it materialize immediately after this El Niño, will lead to a further deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the region.

Map1: Regional rainfall anomalies June – August 2015; Map 2: Climate outlook for October – December 2015

Map - Horn of Africa rainfall and climate (June to December 2015)


[1] Map-1 shows rainfall deviation from the norm between June and August 2015. Dark green re­ects areas that received more than 75 per cent above normal rainfall, red areas received less than 25 per cent of their normal rainfall. Drought -like conditions have particularly affected Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti.

[2] On Map-2: Somalia, Kenya and southern parts of Ethiopia are expected to see above average rainfall. South Sudan, Sudan and the North-Eastern Ethiopia are expected to see drier than normal conditions. While parts of Ethiopia are expected to be near normal during the dry season, the effect of lack of rains earlier in the year is not being compensated.

[3] El Niño predictions do not indicate the amount of above normal or below normal rainfall. It also does not predict rainfall periods: it could all fall within a day, or be spread out over months or weeks. Depending on these variables, above average rainfall could be either destructive, or beneficial for agriculture and pastures. Please also note that the predictions are measured against what is normally expected in that area during that period.



Daniel Berhane

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