Forecasters are warning that Ethiopia could face more rainfall deficits, deepening a drought that has left nearly eight million of the country’s people in need of aid.
Dr. Chris Funk is a climate scientist at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) whose research focuses on African and Asian countries. He told VOA’s Horn of Africa Service that there is a 50 percent chance another El Nino weather event could form in the Pacific Ocean this year.
“If it’s a moderate or strong El Nino, that would definitely tilt towards odd, below normal rain for northern Ethiopia,” he said. “That is what happened unfortunately in 2015, when we had a strong El Nino that reduced rains in northern and central Ethiopia and we are concerned about that possibility.”
Ethiopia tends to receive its heaviest rain between mid-June and mid-September, especially in the north.
The moderate rainy season that runs from February to May was disappointing, said Dula Shanko, deputy director for the Ethiopian meteorological department.
“March rain was very poor for areas that get rain [in] this time,” he said. “In April and May it shows little progress but not enough.”
He added that rain was sparse in the southern regions of Somali and Oromia.
Out of 7.78 million Ethiopians in need of food assistance, 3.6 million are in Oromia.
Lower than normal rains in 2015 and 2016 contributed to the ongoing food crisis by killing livestock and reducing farm output. The drought has forced farmers and pastoralists to search for water, pushing students to drop out of school in some areas.
The impact has been especially harsh in Oromia, where massive protests against the government took place two years ago and officials have maintained a state of emergency. In this region, Borana, Guji, West Guji East, West Harerge, North Shewa, East Shewa, Arsi and Bale provinces are highly affected, according to a government report.
Ethiopian officials say they are working to counter the drought by providing food for both animals and people.
“The combined effort from local, federal government and citizens averted the country from falling to famine before it happens [and] saved countless lives by allocating millions of dollars for this purpose,” said Debebe Zewude, a public officer for the National Disaster and Risk Management Commission (NDRMC).
But government intervention only goes so far when it doesn’t rain.
“Carcasses of cows, goats litter over the roads throughout the districts,” said Dida Guyo of Nagelle Borana, a city in Oromia. “I would say thousands of animals are dead due to drought from this area.”
The situation is grave, said Borbor Bule, a resident of Dubluk, a town in the south of the country.
“This is our only source of income,” he added. “We have lost our proud breeds. I have lost more than 10 animals. More than 50 animals are dead in my village alone.”
“I have never seen anything like this in my life,” he said. “… God forbid, we are fearing for human life.”
Diplomatic leaks: UAE dissatisfied with Saudi policies
AL JAZEERA — Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) is working on breaking up Saudi Arabia, leaked documents obtained by Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar revealed.
Al Akhbar said that the leaked documents contained secret diplomatic briefings sent by UAE and Jordanian ambassadors in Beirut to their respective governments.
One of the documents, issued on September 20, 2017, disclosed the outcome of a meeting between Jordan’s ambassador to Lebanon Nabil Masarwa and his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdel-Al al-Qenaie.
“The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is working on breaking up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Jordanian envoy quoted the Kuwait ambassador as saying.
A second document, issued on September 28, 2017, reveals meeting minutes between the Jordanian ambassador and his UAE counterpart Hamad bin Saeed al-Shamsi.
The document said the Jordanian ambassador informed his government that UAE believes that “Saudi policies are failing both domestically and abroad, especially in Lebanon”.
“The UAE is dissatisfied with Saudi policies,” the Jordanian envoy said.
The Qatar vote
According to the leaks, UAE ambassador claims that Lebanon voted for Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari in his bid to become head of UNESCO in October 2017.
“[Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri knew Lebanon was voting for Qatar,” the UAE ambassador said in a cable sent to his government on October 18, 2017.
In November last year, Hariri announced his shock resignation from the Saudi capital Riyadh.
He later deferred his decision, blaming Iran and its Lebanese ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, for his initial resignation. He also said he feared an assassination attempt.
Officials in Lebanon alleged that Hariri was held hostage by Saudi authorities, an allegation Hariri denied in his first public statement following his resignation speech.
Somalia’s Puntland region asks UAE to stay as Gulf split deepens
BOSASO, Somalia (Reuters) – Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region urged the United Arab Emirates not to close its security operations in the country after a dispute with the central government, saying the Gulf power was a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants.
The dispute goes to the heart of an increasingly troubled relationship between Gulf states – divided by their own disputes – and fractured Somalia, whose coastline sits close to key shipping routes and across the water from Yemen.
Analysts have said the complex standoff risks exacerbating an already explosive security situation on both sides of the Gulf of Aden, where militant groups launch regular attacks.
The central Somali government said on Wednesday it was taking over a military training program run by the UAE.
Days later the UAE announced it was pulling out, accusing Mogadishu of seizing millions of dollars from a plane, money it said was meant to pay soldiers.
“We ask our UAE friends, not only to stay, but to redouble their efforts in helping Somalia stand on its feet,” said the office of the president of Puntland, a territory that sits on the tip of the Horn of Africa looking out over the Gulf of Aden.
Ending UAE support, “will only help our enemy, particularly Al Shabaab and ISIS (Islamic State),” it added late on Monday.
Watch this presser. pic.twitter.com/wEH19WsG7t
— Abdisalam Aato (@AbdisalamAato) April 16, 2018
The UAE is one of a number of Gulf powers that have opened bases along the coast of the Horn of Africa and promised investment and donations as they compete for influence in the insecure but strategically important region.
That competition has been exacerbated by a diplomatic rift between Qatar and a bloc including the UAE. In turn, those splits have worsened divisions in Somalia.
Puntland, which has said it wants independence, has sought to woo the UAE which runs an anti-piracy training center there and is developing the main port. The central government in Mogadishu last year criticized Puntland for taking sides in the Gulf dispute. Qatar’s ally Turkey is one of Somalia’s biggest investors.
One Somali government official said last week Mogadishu had decided to take over the UAE operation because the Gulf state’s contract to run it had expired. Another official said the government was investigating the money taken from the plane.
The competition among Gulf states in Somalia has fueled accusations of foreign interference and resentment in many corners of Somali society.
The loss of the UAE program could have a destabilizing effect, said one security analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The value of the UAE trained forces was two-fold – they were relatively well trained but, most importantly, they were paid on time,” unlike other parts of the security forces, the analyst told Reuters.
Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991.