Climate change intensifies El Niño and La Niña

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 29 Aug 2011

The severe drought in the Horn of Africa, which has caused the death of at least 30 000 children and is affecting some 12 million people, especially in Somalia, is a direct consequence of weather phenomena associated with climate change and global warming, environmental scientists say.

The intensification of La Niña will see growing desertification in Africa. Photo UNCCD.

“The present drought in the Horn of Africa has been provoked by El Niño and La Niña phenomena in the Pacific Ocean, which unsettle the normal circulation of warm and cold water and air, and dislocate the humidity conditions across the southern hemisphere,” Friedrich-Wilhelm Gerstengarbe, senior scientist at the German Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK, after its German name), told IPS.

Both phenomena are a part of the southern oscillation climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean every five to seven years. It is characterised by variations in the temperature of the surface of the tropical eastern Pacific – warming or cooling known as El Niño and La Niña respectively – and a changing air surface pressure in the western Pacific. Continue reading

Drought leads to forced culling

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 27 July 2011

Butchered sheep and goats are strung up in a thorn tree ready for cooking in this remote north Kenyan village, as though the people are preparing a giant celebration feast.

“This is the worst drought we have had, and we have lost hope of seeing rain”

But there is no party here and the mood is grim: in desperation, the villagers are killing the animals upon which their lives depend, rather than see them die in the extreme drought sweeping the region.

“We are not happy to have to kill our animals,” said Elema Warrio, an elderly herder, looking on sadly at the 25 carcasses, the latest to be killed in a weekly cull.

“We would be happy if there was grazing and water for them, but since we don’t have a choice, we can only kill them,” he added.

Some 12 million people across the Horn of Africa are struggling from the worst drought in decades, with two regions in southern Somalia in famine.

Tens of thousands of people have died, as the international community scramble to provide emergency relief.

“This is the worst drought we have had, and we have lost hope of seeing rain,” said Galgalo Wato, a herder and father of seven, waving at the vast and dusty scrubland surrounding the village of 700 people.

The land here is too dry for crop farming, and the community depends entirely on animals for their livelihoods.

“In previous droughts we would lose 20 or 30 animals, but then the rains would come and the calves would be born,” Wato added. “It was never as long as this.” Continue reading

Famine claims hundreds every day in Somalia

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 22 July 2011

Famine in Somalia has killed tens of thousands of people in recent months and could grow even worse unless urgent action is taken, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned on Wednesday. FAO has appealed for $120 million for response to the drought in the Horn of Africa to provide agricultural emergency assistance.

Around 12 million people in the Horn of Africa are currently in need of emergency assistance

Hundreds of people are dying every day and if we do not act now many more will perish,” said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.

“We must avert a human tragedy of vast proportions. And much as food assistance is needed now, we also have to scale up investments in sustainable immediate and medium-term interventions that help farmers and their families to protect their assets and continue to produce food.

Special report

In a special report published today [20 July 2011] the FAO-managed Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network officially declared a state of famine in two regions of southern Somalia, Bakool and Lower Shabelle.

The report warns that in the next one or two months famine will become widespread throughout southern Somalia.

Together with ongoing crises in the rest of the country, the number of Somalis in need of humanitarian assistance has increased from 2.4 million to 3.7 million in the last 6 months.  Altogether, around 12 million people in the Horn of Africa are currently in need of emergency assistance. Continue reading

Droughts seriously impact on health

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 15 July 2011

In the Horn of Africa, increasingly frequent drought episodes punctuated by ever shorter recovery periods have exhausted the coping capacity of communities in a region where resources and services are already scarce. The resulting depletion of household resources is having a serious impact on the general health and nutritional status of the population.

The vicious cycle of hunger- ill-health- poverty means that fewer resources are dedicated to health care just as health needs increase as a result of poor diet. Lack of water and population displacements, which result in precarious sanitation, further increase the risk of communicable diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and measles. Outbreaks of acute watery diarrhoea and measles have already been reported in Djibouti and Ethiopia. The effects of the drought are also aggravated by weak health care systems, with limited human resources and medical supplies and low immunization coverage.

The areas most severely affected are also those suffering from some of the highest disease burdens in the region. For example, in Somalia, child health is among the worst in the world. Infant mortality is estimated at 88 per 1000 live births and under-five mortality at 142 per 1000. In the first half of 2011, at least three Somali children died of malnutrition every day. In parts of Southern Somalia, one in three children is malnourished. Continue reading