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East Africa May Get Below-Normal Rain, Threatening Food Security

Rain may be “significantly” below average in the Horn of Africa’s main growing season, potentially threatening a region still recovering from famine in 2011, the Famine Early Warning Systems network reported.

Rain from March through May in the region, which includes Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, is expected to begin late and amount to only 60 percent to 85 percent of average, the U.S.- funded provider of food-security warnings wrote in a statement on its website dated April 3. Poor rains are likely to reduce local food security, it said.

The amount of precipitation was previously expected to be between 75 percent and 105 percent of the long-term average, based on a February forecast. The Horn of Africa region suffered from drought and famine last year that affected more than 13 million people.

“This is a significant deterioration compared to earlier forecast analysis and would have significant impacts on crop production, pasture regeneration and the replenishment of water resources,” FEWS wrote.

Below-average rain means the number of people experiencing food insecurity and the severity of conditions are likely to increase, according to the report.

In the worst-case scenario, rainfall would be less than 60 percent of average, meaning a “major failure” of the region’s main growing season similar to the “very dry years” of 2000 and 2011, according to the report. The chance of the worst-case scenario is estimated at 30 percent, FEWS said.

“Given the impacts of extreme food insecurity and famine during 2011 on human health and household livelihoods, and the likelihood of a poor March-May season, humanitarian partners should immediately implement programs to protect livelihoods and household food consumption in the eastern Horn of Africa,” wrote FEWS, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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