A weather phenomenon over the Indian Ocean is exacerbating the driest conditions in more than four decades in the Horn of Africa that may continue for the rest of the year.
The extreme climate conditions are damaging crops and leading to the death of livestock in countries including Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, compounding the steep increase in food prices that have resulted from Russia’s war with Ukraine. Rains that usually fall from March to May have failed this year and the resulting drought has exhausted the coping mechanisms of people who now have to rely on humanitarian aid to survive, the World Food Programme said in April.
Every year, an oscillation in sea-surface temperatures in the western and eastern parts of the Indian Ocean, causes either long droughts or heavy rain in eastern Africa. The so-called Indian Ocean Dipole was also responsible for the desert locust plague that ravaged swaths of farmlands from 2019.
This year, the IOD “will be one of the strongest, if not the strongest,” according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation.
“The stronger the IOD on one side, you will have really strong contrast between the two sides,” Abubakr Salih Babiker of the World Meteorological Organisation’s regional office for Africa said by phone from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. “The prospect is not looking good. There is risk that these dry conditions might continue until the end of the year.”