Late rains are affecting a vast swathe of the eastern Horn of Africa, including the Somali region of Ethiopia, the Southern Nations Region, and parts of northern Kenya.
Poor conditions in these areas comes on top of the already dire conditions in South Sudan and Somalia, where humanitarians have raised the spectre of famine.
New meteorological information indicates that March to May rainfall has been slow to get underway in parts of the Eastern Horn, with a delayed and/or below-average start to seasonal rains in pastoral and agropastoral areas of southern Ethiopia and northeastern Kenya, and below-average Belg rainfall in Ethiopia during March.
According to a new bulletin by the USAID-funded famine watchdog FEWS NET, which works in collaboration with the United States Geological Survey, weather forecasts for the coming weeks suggest no significant rains in the Eastern Horn in the coming weeks, including Somalia, eastern Ethiopia, and eastern and northern Kenya.
Even after that, rainfall over the eastern Horn will likely be “erratic and light in amounts, leading to the possibility of an erratic or delayed start of season, including in Somalia and eastern Ethiopia.”
“Particularly in areas of the Eastern Horn where the October to December 2016 rains failed or performed very poorly, these forecasts are concerning,” reads the meteorological bulletin. “In areas where seasonal rainfall typically gets underway starting in mid-March, such as southern SNNPR in Ethiopia, these forecasts suggest a continued delay in the start of season and potentially signal a delayed or erratic start of season in areas such as Somalia, where seasonal rains typically become established in April.”
The scientists raised the possibility of a prolonged drought during which time pasture and water would be depleted or exhausted.