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Update on East Africa: Rain, Rain, Hopefully More Rain

By admin | November 1, 2011

Photo: Internation Maize and Wheat Improvement Center

By: Dylan Rodgers

People in the Horn of Africa at last felt the cool splash of rain.  The white noise of wet, percussive salvation drummed on the roofs of many drought-weary Africans last week.  I can imagine that the rainfall must have been almost alien, a forgotten comfort of the simplest sort.  There is water to drink and feed the dry, cracked earth.  People, animals, and plants alike now have some relief from the worst drought in over 60 years.  The big question is:  how much relief will this actually bring?

A few days of rain aren’t going to turn the drought stricken land around.  It would take roughly three consecutive, plentiful wet seasons to repair the damage that has been done.  People need water to drink, to grow crops, to water and feed their livestock.  It will take some time before the livestock will be able to mate again and produce milk (an important source of nutrition for young Africans).  Given the period of repair, the people in the Horn may continue to be malnourished for some time to come, not to mention the physical and psychological scars suffered.

There is some major debate though on whether the rains will continue or not.  Researchers at the University of California in Santa Barbara (UCSB) believe that the drought will continue for the coming years.  Based off of information they’ve gathered, temperatures have spiked in the Indian Ocean resulting in changes in African weather patterns.  Rain clouds are forming, but they are releasing their moisture well before they reach the coast of Africa.  According to UCSB, droughts could become a more common pattern and continue for longer periods of time.  If this is true, then this drought may continue.

On the other side of the debate, the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations weather agency, had recently projected that Africa’s upcoming wet season will produce normal to above-average rainfall in the western territories of the Horn.  Though the rain would be a welcome relief, torrential rains come with other issues.

Thousands of families in the Horn of Africa have uprooted from their homes to seek places with the necessary resources for survival.  Recent heavy rains in Mogadishu flooded the make-shift camps of 2,800 people trying to survive the previously harsh, dry conditions.  The powerful currents tore through the camp sweeping at least two children away and leaving a dead pregnant woman in its wake.  But the initial flood isn’t the only problem these people will face.

The water is collected in pond-like reservoirs, making it accessible to people and animals alike.  As the water gets used, bacteria flourishes and mosquito larvae mature bringing sickness to people with already weakened constitutions.  Many organizations have been gathering aid to combat the problems associated with the wet season like diarrhea and malaria.

We don’t know what if the weather patterns will shift in Africa’s favor or not any time soon.  We can only hope that the rain continues as a steady pace and doesn’t cause too much strife to people so stricken with pain.  Some solace has reached parts of Kenya and Ethiopia where crops are coming in and livestock can graze.  The rain, though violently overbearing, has started the healing process with almost immediate results throughout the area.  It is the first sign of a new day of relief for people in desperate need of a break.  Let’s just pray that it continues.

Photo: Internation Maize and Wheat Improvement Center

For more updates on Africa, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

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