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More than 5 million people at risk of starvation as drought worsens in eastern Africa

By Eric Leister, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
June 09, 2019, 9:40:49 AM EDT

A severe multi-year drought in the Horn of Africa has put more than five million people across three countries at risk for famine.

The United Nations warned on Wednesday that the risk of starvation was growing as more than 3 million people in Somalia alone are expected to struggle just to meet minimum food requirements by September.

The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has allocated 45 million dollars for food and water provisions and other urgent humanitarian support for those being affected by the drought.

Somalia AP 6/6

In this Saturday, May 18, 2019 file photo, people fleeing from drought in the Lower and Middle Shabelle regions of Somalia carry their belongings as they reach a makeshift camp for displaced persons in the Daynile neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital Mogadishu. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

The current rainy season is now one of the driest on record in the last 35 years, according to CERF's Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock.

While Somalia is ground zero for the ongoing drought and famine risk, neighboring parts of Kenya and Ethiopia are also being impacted with more than two million people at risk for starvation between both countries.

The drought conditions were worsened by a pair of tropical cyclones that affected Mozambique this spring, suppressing moisture to the south of Somalia and neighboring countries.

The drought has left low water supplies, destroyed crops and dwindling livestock herds across the region, according to the New York Times.

Somalia endured a famine from 2010-2012, a food crisis in 2014 and another near famine from 2016 to 2017. The 2010-2012 famine has been blamed for more than 250,000 deaths, according to the BBC.

Africa Weather Center
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Somalia Weather Center

Unfortunately, no immediate relief is in sight, as dry weather will continue its grip on the Horn of Africa in the coming weeks.

"Little or no drought relief is expected through the rest of June and into July," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls.

"Tropical development in the Arabian Sea during the middle of June could act to further rob moisture from reaching Somalia and neighboring areas in the coming weeks," added Nicholls.

There is a glimmer of hope in the longer range, as a big change in the weather pattern is expected during the second half of the year.

"The Indian Ocean Dipole may go positive in August, leading to increased rainfall across the region," said Nicholls.

Unfortunately, this rainfall may come too late to help the millions of people that are already facing harsh conditions, making short-term aid even more vital.

Meanwhile, in northern Africa, deadly flooding has left at least four people dead and 30 injured swamped entire communities across southwest Libya and southeast Algeria.

Heavy rainfall has also triggered deadly mudslides in South Africa, Uganda and Mali in recent weeks.

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