Famine Warning Issued in Four Countries Following Worst African Droughts in Decades
Abnormally warm West Pacific sea surface temperatures — in part driven by a weak La Nina, in part driven by global warming — produced changes in atmospheric circulation that considerably reduced rainfall over Eastern and Southern Africa during 2016. As a result, places like Rwanda, Kenya, Eithiopia, South Sudan, and Somalia experienced some of their worst droughts in decades.
According to the Famine Early Warning Network, more than 70 million people are facing hunger around the world in 2017. The primary causes include drought, military conflict, and lack of ability of nations to access food on the international market. Four countries — Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria — now face famine. And drought and conflict stricken Africa is the primary hot-spot for global hunger. Climate change has likely worsened this situation by adding to the intensity of droughts and heatwaves now affecting the region...
Additionally, conflict combined with the after effect of a 2014-2015 drought has disrupted food and water access in Yemen. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s falling purchasing power following a 2015 drought has rendered it unable to reliably procure food locally or on the international market.
These synergistic factors have forced plummeting food production and food security throughout Africa and nearby Middle Eastern countries. And now four nations — Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria — have been placed under a famine alert. In these countries alone, 20 million people face starvation and the world-over more than 70 million people are under threat from hunger...
Conditions in Context — Climate Change Proliferates Drought, Food Insecurity
2017’s famine alert is Somalia’s second in six years and its third in 25. And the various famine alerts that are presently ongoing all occur in states that have suffered from drought and water stress in the past five years. Instability and conflict are often identified as the cause of food stress. But drought is a trigger condition under which multi-year instability and conflict can emerge (as we have so vividly and tragically seen in Syria). In this way, drought and conflict interact in a chicken and egg relationship to produce reduced food security. And it’s a situation that’s exacerbated by warming global surface temperatures.
Unfortunately, with global temperatures likely to increase by another 0.3 to 0.6 C over the next two decades, food stress and related instability are a rising risk for this and other regions of the world. More intense drought, shifting climate zones, and changing precipitation patterns all help to increase that risk. And, at this point, the various food crises the world is presently experiencing are difficult to divorce from it.