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Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya face devastating drought

Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya face devastating drought

The next rainy season in East Africa is forecast to fail, jeopardizing food security for millions of people. Act now.

Every five or so years, it rips me apart to watch the same tragedy: a La Niña weather cycle brings devastating drought and hunger to East Africa, threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. Using climate models and Earth observations, we can now predict these droughts. And once again, dry conditions are predicted from this month until December, with a very good chance of another poor rainy season in March to May 2021.

Advances in predictive science allow us to anticipate these potential crises. Scientists issued alerts in August. East African climate experts used a new modelling system for their pessimistic forecast. In the United States, I was part of a group of climate scientists and humanitarian agencies that raised the alarm, through the Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

But past experience makes us worry that some governments might not react quickly enough to prevent impacts such as food shortages and even famine.

The timing could not be worse. The region is more precarious than ever — destabilized by COVID-19 and the worst devastation from locusts in half a century.

This year’s response must be different. Governments and agencies have weeks to plan how to alleviate the worst consequences of the drought, and months to prepare for 2021.