Steve Connor: Even rain brings no relief

Analysis

Share
Related Topics

The drought in northern Kenya is part of a wider problem affecting an estimated 23 million people in seven countries across East Africa, who have suffered for several years from the effects of erratic rainfall, poor water management and crop failures.

This part of Africa has always been notorious for droughts but in recent years they seem to have become more frequent and have affected a larger number of people, partly because of an expanding population and the pressures that creates on a semi-arid landscape.

Earlier this week, Oxfam issued a warning that the drought affecting Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda has produced the worst humanitarian crisis its workers had seen in more than 10 years. Malnutrition is above emergency levels in many areas and hundreds of thousands of cattle have died or were dying, the aid agency said.

Although the rains had failed for three consecutive years in much of northern Kenya, John Magrath, a climate specialist at Oxfam, said that the problem was not always a lack of rainfall but a lack of consistent, reliable rainfall. When the rains did come, they often resulted in torrential downpours that caused flooding and havoc and did little good in terms of useful crop irrigation, Mr Magrath said.

The meteorological data for the region was poor but anecdotal reports had indicated that rainfall patterns had changed in recent years, he said. There was also reliable data showing the average temperatures of the region had risen, which increases evaporation and causes the soil to dry out more quickly, he said.

"Most climate models predict that this part of Africa and the Horn of Africa will actually get wetter with climate change but that doesn't seem to be happening. All the indications are that it is getting drier," Mr Magrath said.

In Kenya, Oxfam estimates that there are 3.8 million people – a 10th of the population – who are now in need of emergency aid brought on mainly by a dramatic rise in food prices, which have risen nearly fourfold above normal levels.

One in six children are acutely malnourished in Somalia, where the armed conflict has exacerbated the problems caused by the drought. In Ethiopia, the aid agency estimates, nearly 14 million people are at risk of severe hunger.

The big worry now is that the rainy season, which is due to start in the coming weeks, may not bring much relief.

On previous form, what rain does fall could come as a short-lived deluge, causing floods and destroying what is left of the land.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
SEEN graffiti Wonder Woman  

Warner Bros’ bold stance on Wonder Woman opens the door for Hollywood evolution

Matthew James
 

Errors & Omissions: moderate, iconic royals are a shoe-in for a pedantic kicking

Guy Keleny
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us