Cover image: Drought in East Africa

Drought in East Africa

The Horn of Africa is currently (July 2011) experiencing its worst drought in 60 years, mainly affecting the countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti. People living in this part of the world are used to experiencing very dry spells of weather, but several factors have combined to create serious conditions this year. There are usually two rainy seasons: March-May and November-December. The rains at the end of last year were way below average, as were the spring rains this year. It is thought the drought was exacerbated by the atmospheric phenomenon known as La Niña. The temperature of the Pacific Ocean dropped by 1 to 1.5 degrees Celsius - a huge change covering a large area of the globe and resulting in extreme weather conditions (such as the floods in Australia in January). Whilst La Niña has now eased, further rains in this region are not expected for a few months, and they may not be sufficient to ease the drought. It is not clear to what extent global warming has been a factor - according to a recent Guardian article opinions are divided as to whether this would cause this region to become wetter, or in fact increase drought. But aid agencies report that in recent years the weather in the region has been more erratic and extreme, making life difficult for people living off the land. Drought alone does not inevitably result in a crisis. The people of this region have lived with periods of drought for generations and developed strategies to deal with it. But years of conflict in Somalia, for example, have seriously hindered development, hampered the distribution of aid, and caused disruptive shifts in population as refugees move across the region. The drought has also driven up food prices, making matters even worse for already impoverished people. Whilst emergency aid is important now, the world needs to work together to find a lasting solution.  

Teaching resources

ActionAid East Africa Drought PowerPoint Suitable for KS 2-4 (ages 7-16). Contains case studies of people living in drought-affected Kenya, links to a live video blog and suggestions for how schools can help.
CAFOD Two PowerPoint presentations are available exploring the East Africa drought, one for primary school teachers and one for secondary school teachers.
Oxfam Oxfam has a Dealing with Disasters assembly which has been updated to highlight the East Africa food crisis. Suitable for KS3 (ages 11-14).

Background information

The situation is a changing one, so you may want to look for more recent updates on the websites listed below.
AlertNet Useful Q & A: How bad is the Horn of Africa drought?
Aljazeera Aljazeera has an online film clip: Africa's drought: is weather or war to blame? which raises some interesting issues for discussion.
BBC News article: Horn of Africa sees 'worst drought in 60 years' Audio clip from Today programme: 'Desperate drought' in Horn of Africa
British Red Cross Five ways to help the Horn of Africa - looks at long-term as well as immediate solutions. This summarises a longer article from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies: Politics, war, migration: the anatomy of a humanitarian crisis
Geology for Global Development Blog produced by a UK based Geologist with a keen interest in development issues. Crisis in the Horn of Africa - two posts taking an in-depth look at the root causes and possible solutions to the current crisis.
Maps with background information The Guardian - Horn of Africa drought: interactive map ReliefWeb - Eastern Africa - Drought: Humanitarian Snapshot as of 24 June 2011 (PDF)
The Lancet In-depth article calling for a long-term solution: Global food crisis takes heavy toll on east Africa
Oxfam Blog post: Drought and rising prices leave Somaliland families struggling for food

Fundraising and donations

Disasters Emergency Committee A coalition of 14 aid agencies: East Africa Crisis Appeal
UNICEF (Not a member of the DEC coalition): UNICEF launches East Africa Children's Crisis Appeal
Advice on fundraising For tips and case studies about fundraising in schools, go to Making the Most of Fundraising with Young People, where you can download or order a free fundraising poster for your staff-room.

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