A Maasai woman carries water at Olomayiana West, Kajiado County, Kenya, Feb. 15, 2017. The Kenyan government last Friday declared the current drought affecting 23 arid and semi-arid counties and pockets of other areas a national disaster. (Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)
by Chrispinus Omar
NAIROBI, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- Increased nonseasonal rainfall may slightly ease dry conditions in some drought-affected areas in East Africa region, a food security agency has forecast.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) said the presence of a tropical cyclone (Dineo), currently located over the Mozambique Channel, is forecast to bring nonseasonal moderate to heavy rains across much of Tanzania and parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Rwanda and Burundi during the coming week.
"This may slightly ease the currently very dry conditions in these areas, prior to the onset of seasonal rains in the Horn," the agency said in its February report published on Sunday.
Vegetation conditions remain very poor in much of East Africa, following scarce rainfall between October 2016 and January in many areas, particularly in Somalia, southeastern Ethiopia, northern Kenya, and northeastern Tanzania.
Vegetations have continued to deteriorate into February, particularly in the Horn of Africa region, as the dry season has continued, according to the report.
The report came as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned on Feb. 14 that East Africa's ongoing drought had sharply curbed harvests and driven up the prices of cereals and other staple foods to unusually high levels, posing a heavy burden to local households and special risks for pastoralists.
"Sharply increasing prices are severely constraining food access for large numbers of households with alarming consequences in terms of food insecurity," FAO said.
Local prices of maize, sorghum and other cereals are near or at record levels in swathes of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania, according to the latest Food Price Monitoring and Analysis Bulletin.
The report says since late January, seasonal dryness has continued over the eastern Horn, following very poor performance of the Deyr/Hageya/short rains between October and December, resulting in an abnormally long dry season that has also been marked by hotter-than-normal land surface temperatures across Somalia, Kenya, southern and eastern Ethiopia, and northeastern Tanzania.
In addition, end of the season dryness in January affected cropping conditions and reduced maize yields in Burundi, Rwanda, and bimodal areas of Tanzania and led to well below average rangeland resources in these countries.
"In Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, rangeland resources in many areas continue to deteriorate as the dry season continues following very poor performance of the Deyr/Hageya/short rains in 2016," FEWS Net said.
In many areas, NDVI continues to show vegetation conditions that are well below normal and field reports confirm little to no pasture availability in many pastoral areas.
During the past several days, small amounts of nonseasonal rainfall has occurred in localized areas of northeastern Kenya, southern Ethiopia, and Djibouti.