Africa is heating up at a rate outpacing the rest of the world, putting it at higher risk of severe climate conditions. The rainy season in Western Africa typically lasts from May to October. By March of 2023, the region was enduring its sixth consecutive failed rainy season, concluding with a historic drought in the Horn of Africa. It left millions of people displaced and created a massive humanitarian crisis. A State of the Climate of Africa report estimated nearly $9 billion in economic damage. It warned that “the diminishing natural resource base could fuel conflicts” as resources dry up and demand increases.
Impacting the Vulnerable
Those living in poverty struggle the most with climate-related disasters as their access to basic needs like food and water is limited. Droughts affect many areas of daily life, from agricultural output to air pollution and deforestation. Deforestation leads to diminishing numbers of trees and plants to capture pollutants from the air, like CO2, that worsen droughts and increase the risk of wildfires.
Mitigating drought in the Horn of Africa includes diminishing many environmental risks to the continent. Areas affected by droughts include nearly every area in Africa, and six consecutive rainy seasons with no rain have been devastating. The world recognizes the importance of the crisis, and many countries have committed significant resources to the fight.
In May of 2023, the United States, in partnership with Germany and the United Kingdom, announced a combined $869 million in humanitarian aid for the Horn of Africa. The Netherlands has committed another $92 million, and the funding will support efforts to combat extreme weather patterns while illuminating the severity of these climatic events. The U.S. has now committed $1.4 billion in assistance for recovery and prevention.
The drought in the Horn of Africa put 37 million people at risk, and NGOs worldwide moved quickly to help as many people as possible. As of March 2023, USAID provided cash transfers so residents could purchase food from local markets where it was available. Alongside the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance, it supported the WASH program that aims to prevent the outbreak of diseases, like acute malnutrition, by rehabilitating conflict-affected water systems. WASH made it possible to provide clean drinking water to 3 million people in March 2023 alone.
UNICEF was on the ground distributing what it calls Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food, a highly effective treatment in combating acute malnutrition. UNICEF has the world’s largest stockpile and utilizes it, providing aid to 1.5 million at-risk children. The World Food Programme responded to Ethiopia by providing food assistance to 3.3 million people and another 2.4 million in Somalia; other efforts included education on sustainable water management and well-building.
Home Grown SolutionsDrought
Africa accounts for nearly 44% of severe droughts recorded in the last 100 years. Billions are lost in economic resources, and the human suffering is unmeasurable. The importance of humanitarian aid cannot be understated in Africa, but many ways to mitigate climate change-related incidents, like droughts, can be found within its borders.
Kenya is investing in community water sources to lessen its dependence on rain-fed agriculture. Zimbabwe is looking for ways to improve its food security by incorporating drought-tolerant varieties of maize. This change is crucial as 3.8 million people in rural areas face food insecurity. In the Horn of Africa sits Ethiopia, which has launched a program that helps poor communities by working toward becoming food self-sufficient, meaning struggling communities can develop the ability to produce enough food for their needs.
The Great Green Wall Initiative is the most ambitious plan to tackle climate change. With eleven countries involved, the TGGWI was put into motion in 2007 and is designed to fight desertification by planting millions of trees from the west coast of Senegal across the country to Ethiopia in the east, creating a giant green wall beneath the Sahara Desert. Ethiopia has seen success with the program as 37 million acres of degraded land have been restored, with more to come.
Africa is geographically located in a region prone to intense temperatures, and extreme weather patterns affect the African continent more than any other. Failed rainy seasons are piling up, but international aid, including education on sustainable water methods, has helped alleviate climate-related effects. Africa’s people have proven time and again they are resilient and have proven that once again by generating ways to mitigate extreme weather patterns, thereby mitigating drought.
– Benett Crim