FAO: Horn of Africa grappling with effects of drought, floods

This aerial view shows makeshift structures of people displaced by drought at the Ladan internally displaced people camp in Dolow on May 1, 2023. More than a million Somalis have been displaced within their own country due to a "toxic" mix of drought, conflict and floods in a record four months, the UN and a charity said on May 24, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)

NAIROBI – The Horn of Africa is currently grappling with a combined effect of drought and floods, which are devastating people's lives and livelihoods, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said on Thursday.

Cyril Ferrand, FAO's resilience team leader for East Africa, said the March-to-May rains were normal for the first time after three years or five seasons of drought, leading to floods that have seen thousands displaced.

READ MORE: Horn of Africa hit by drought, cholera, says UN

We had an unprecedented level of cyclones in 2019, and an off-season excess moisture triggered by cyclones led to the desert locust upsurge.

Cyril Ferrand, FAO East Africa

"The long-term drought made soil-less absorbent; rainwater does not percolate very easily through the ground. And that is also part of the reason why we have floods," Ferrand said in a statement issued in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi that the affected countries are Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

According to him, the greater Horn of Africa or the Intergovernmental Authority on Development region has become prone to natural shocks and hazards. 

"We had an unprecedented level of cyclones in 2019, and an off-season excess moisture triggered by cyclones led to the desert locust upsurge. At the same time, we saw three severe drought phenomena in 12 years."

Looking at the short rains from October to December 2023, he noted that there is an increasing probability of El Nino forming, which means excessive rains and floods in the region toward the end of this year.

During the drought that affected Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia as well as Djibouti, many farming households experienced up to 100 percent losses, especially in the arid and semi-arid areas, said Ferrand.

ALSO READ: Horn of Africa facing catastrophic drought, says UN report

"In short, the drought triggered a livelihood crisis that has grown into a multifaceted humanitarian disaster including displacement, health issues, malnutrition and security crisis that has long-term effects on people's lives and livelihoods," Ferrand observed.

The official added that there is a critical need to invest in livelihoods, resilience and climate adaptation in the region.

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