Since late 2015, Southern and Eastern Africa have been hit hard, and scientists warn that human-aided climate change is likely to make such events more frequent. The El Niño that struck at the end of 2015 was the strongest in nearly two decades and severely delayed rains in both Southern and Eastern Africa, causing immediate crop failure, livestock deaths, and widespread water shortages.
The drought has hit many African countries like a line of falling dominoes. The first to be toppled were farmers, both subsistence and commercial, who experienced massive crop failures in the last two harvests. In South Africa, the continent’s breadbasket, agronomists estimate that 30 to 40 percent of all corn crops will fail this year, and food prices have spiked for consumers across the region. As many as 36 million people in Southern and Eastern Africa now face hunger, according to the United Nations.
But the drought has also reshaped lives in less obvious ways, says Victor Chinyama, chief of communication at UNICEF Zimbabwe. School enrollments are down, for instance, as families are forced to put their children into the workplace to make ends meet. Girls are particularly at risk, he says, as families are forced to contemplate early marriage to reduce their financial burden.
The World Food Program says 10.2 million people are in critical need of food aid in Ethiopia alone, and as many as 49 million people may be affected by drought in Southern Africa. Why haven’t we heard more about this situation?
The simple answer is that so much of the world is in crisis now–from the grueling civil war in Syria to an escalating influx of migrants into Europe–leaving many donor countries unable or unwilling to take on another humanitarian burden.
[Christian Science Monitor]