Thursday, December 17, 2009

OXFAM says rains fail again in East Africa

OXFAM is saying that the rainy season in East Africa has failed again this year.

During November and December, East Africa receives the rains needed to grow that year's crop. This year, only five percent of the usual amount of rain fell in the region. Making this the fourth rainy season in a row to fail.

From this Associated Press article that we found at the Star Tribune, reporter Katherine Houreld describes the OXFAM report.

Oxfam said in its report that the failure of the November "short" rains in many pockets of East Africa after several dry seasons will intensify hunger and disease. Heavily used and polluted water sources have not been replenished. Millions of people are at risk in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda and Tanzania, Oxfam said.

The semiarid and arid areas depend on the October-November rainfall, called the short rains, for most of their water needs for the year. A failure of the rains means those areas will have poor or no harvests for the coming year.

A September report by the International Food Policy Research Institute predicted that the worldwide effects of climate change will lead to twenty-five million additional children becoming malnourished by 2050. Aid agencies have long said that droughts are becoming more frequent in Africa, where many living in arid areas are particularly vulnerable to changes in the weather.

Oxfam said cattle prices have tumbled from $200 to $4 in some areas as families try to sell dying animals to buy a few handfuls of corn. Over 1.5 million animals have died in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, with an estimated net worth to the region of nearly $360 million, Oxfam said.

For many nomadic families living without access to banking facilities, cattle represent their only wealth. The animals' deaths begin a spiral into poverty and dependency that can trap a family for generations. Families have even shared relief grain with their animals, trying to keep at least a few alive to restock in the future.

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