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Drought puts Africans on brink of starvation

By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2021-11-23 07:08
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As Dan Musau sits down staring at the sky, he worries that another rainy season is going to fail amid skyrocketing food prices.

"I was hopeful that rains would come since the last two seasons failed," he said. "I had even carried out dry planting. Unfortunately, there are no signs of rain. The situation is worrying."

Musau, who is from Kenya's Machakos County, said there is no pasture for the livestock and animals will die of hunger if the rains fail completely.

"Animals are already emaciated. I fear the situation could be similar to one we experienced in 2008, where I watched all my cows die. Rivers are already dry and piped water is now being rationed," he said.

Musau is among millions of Africans who are on the brink of starvation, as severe drought grips several countries following consecutive poor rainy seasons. The situation has been exacerbated by insecurity in some countries.

About 2.1 million Kenyans in arid and semiarid areas are severely food insecure following poor rainy seasons that have hampered crop production as well as high food prices.

In the northern part of the country, domestic animals have already succumbed to hunger and thirst.

The Horn of Africa region faces its third consecutive below-average rainfall season since late last year, and it is likely to intensify ongoing drought and significantly worsen food insecurity through mid-2022, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, which provides early warning and analysis on food insecurity.

Economic challenges

The network estimates that up to 20 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Somalia will need food assistance through mid-2022 due to drought, conflict, insecurity and economic challenges.

The southern regions of Somalia are now enduring severe drought, while the northeastern regions are facing a widespread moderate drought.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's Somalia Water and Land Information Management said on Thursday that if drought conditions are to worsen-as expected in December and into the first quarter of next year, it could lead to a similar situation witnessed in 2016 and 2017.

The organization said farmers and herders are forced to walk long distances in search of pasture and water.

Food prices have also increased with imported rice prices in northern and central Somalia having gone up by 50 percent.

Prices of maize and sorghum have also increased, by up to 60 percent, in southern markets due to low supply.

"The impact of the worsening drought on vulnerable rural populations is extremely worrying. Without rapid action by all actors, rural communities will face difficult choices in coming months as they become unable to feed their families," said Etienne Peterschmitt, the FAO representative in Somalia.

In Madagascar, the UN said drought has left more than 1.3 million people facing severe hunger, including some 30,000 people who are facing life-threatening famine-like conditions.



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