Ásia, Deutsche Welle, Inglês, traduz

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The El Nino climate pattern , a phenomenon of heightened global temperatures and erratic weather conditions, wreaked havoc across African nations throughout 2023 — and continues to do so in 2024.

East Africa has been hit by torrential rains that have cost the lives of at least 58 people in Tanzania in the first half of April, and 13 people in Kenya.

This natural occurrence brings about extremes in weather, ranging from devastating floods to prolonged droughts, with Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and southern Africa among the hardest-hit.

Earlier this month, aid agency Oxfam said more than 20 million people faced hunger and malnutrition across southern Africa because of the drought.

How El Nino contributes to drought in Africa

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Funding gap threatens relief efforts

While countries like Zambia grapple with their worst drought ever, seeking nearly $1 billion (more than 900 million) to provide life-saving assistance, their efforts are hampered by a significant funding gap.

Kenyan climate activist Grace Ronoh said the plight of developing nations is also burdened by debt.

“When you look at especially the developing countries, they are not able to prioritize a response to the climate crisis because for them to do this, they require financing,” Ronoh said. “And at this point in time, most of the countries are debt-laden, so they will prioritize paying for debt.”

While speaking at the annual meeting between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Washington, DC, Ronoh urged for reform within these institutions to streamline access to funds for climate emergencies.

“We need to remove the bureaucracies and reform the bank to make sure that it’s fair and also do away with the very complicated mechanisms that really limit increasing financing to address climate issues,” Ronoh said.

A UN-led event to secure donations to address Ethiopia’s humanitarian crisis last Tuesday (April 16) fell well short of its $1 billion target. It did, however, raise almost $630 million (€592 million) to assist millions of Ethiopians impacted by climate change and conflict.

Strategies for the future

The UN reported that the El Nino weather pattern has led to water scarcity, parched pastures and reduced harvests affecting millions of people.

Despite this grim outlook, Dr David Gikungu, director of the Kenya Meteorological Department, says that he remains cautiously optimistic, projecting the current season to end soon in most regions.

“We are expecting the season to end in most places around the end of May. Around the coast, we are expecting it to cease around June,” Gikungu told DW.

Collaboration between meteorological departments, disaster management agencies and governments is crucial, he added, highlighting the role of the Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in spearheading these efforts in his country.

“There are offices to track and inform. We work with others who deal with disaster management, and they are all supported by the government,” Gikungu said.

However, the effectiveness of existing strategies meanwhile is also stretched by the sheer scale of the crisis, as evidenced by the high death toll from flooding in some regions.

Severe drought in Zimbabwe threatens millions with hunger

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Looking ahead

The immediate focus might therefore require a shift towards securing necessary funding to deliver life-saving assistance to affected populations.

The United States has decided to allocate nearly $154 million in humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia to address pressing needs arising “from conflict, insecurity, and climate shocks,” according to the US State Department, tying this aid to immediate needs rather than long-term projects.

Such immediate responses are also necessary elsewhere: For instance, in Zambia and Zimbabwe, water shortages have fueled outbreaks of cholera and other waterborne diseases, according to the World Weather Attribution (WWA) research group.

“Whenever it floods, you can expect issues of sewage,” Gikungu told DW. “(W)hen you cook using contaminated water, you are looking for trouble, (such as) cholera outbreaks. These are some of the things to expect in this region.” 

Chrispin Mwakideu and Jane Nyingi contributed to this article.

Edited by: Keith Walker and Sertan Sanderson

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