Humanitarian Crisis Looms as a Hungry Africa Approaches the ‘End of the Road’
With 19 million “victims of climate change” in East Africa’s Somaliland starving to death after a third year of failed seasonal rains, the region is shaping up as an example of what the entire continent could face as a result of a changing climate and exhausted landscapes.
The severity and persistence of drought in Somaliland is “unprecedented,” iNews reports, “resulting in malnutrition and acute, watery diarrhoea” for its victims and “worsening the refugee crisis as it forces people from their land.” Elders say the drought is the worst they have ever experienced, wiping out entire herds of livestock.
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Chris Funk, an East African climate specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey, described the region’s three-year thirst and significant rise in average temperatures as “highly related to climate change” and “one of the most concerning trends in the world,” writes iNews regional correspondent Rob Hastings.
And northeast Africa’s drought-induced famine may be just a foretaste of what the continent could soon confront elsewhere, the New York Times reports. “There are going to be some serious food security issues,” predicted Zachary Donnenfeld, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa.
In the relative absence of service and industrial jobs, World Bank data show 70% of Africans relying on farming for subsistence, more than on any other continent, the Times notes. But land degradation—by overuse as much as through climate change—threatens parcels worked by 40 million people.
Rising populations have forced many African farmers to forego traditional ways of caring for soil that would maintain its organic content, retain moisture, and preserve fertility. “They have to take every inch of their land and farm or graze it constantly,” the Times writes.
Which means that, “in many areas, the soil is so dried out and exhausted that there is little solace even when the prayed-for rains finally come. The ground is as hard as concrete and the rain just splashes off, like a hose spraying a driveway.”
Forced to abandon worked-out smallholdings, “large groups of people are on the move, desperate for usable land.”
“It’s a looming crisis,” said Odenda Lumumba, head of the Kenya Land Alliance. “We are basically reaching the end of the road.”