February 14, 2006

Drought seen lasting across Horn of Africa til April

GENEVA (Reuters) - Drought conditions across the Horn of Africa are likely to persist until at least early April, threatening further loss of life and livestock, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Tuesday.

The WMO, a United Nations agency, said it was reporting on the latest seasonal report from its partner, the Nairobi-based Intergovernmental Authority on Development, known as IGAD.

At least several dozen people and tens of thousands of livestock have already died in East Africa due to a drought afflicting Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tanzania and Burundi since late 2005.

"...drought conditions throughout the Greater Horn of Africa are likely to continue in most of the areas between February until at least the beginning of April," WMO spokesman Mark Oliver told a news briefing in Geneva.

"The strong negative impacts include loss of life, livestock, livelihoods, property, as well as dwindling supplies of pasture, water and food, and a heavy dependence on aid relief," he added.

Some areas had recorded their driest months since 1961.

Northern Ethiopia and Sudan were likely to remain "extremely dry," while much of Somalia, Kenya, eastern and southern Ethiopia, southern Sudan, northern Uganda and north-eastern areas of Tanzania were all likely to experience "below normal to in some cases near normal rainfall," Oliver said.

Some areas of Kenya, mainly in the east and southeast, which did not benefit from all seasonal rainfall last March-May, may suffer "for most of this year at least as well," he said.

Random rainfalls might occur close to large bodies of water, including southern, western and northwestern Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, southern Uganda, western Kenya and coastal parts of Somalia, according to the spokesman.