Climate change is a global phenomenon affecting individuals and countries on a daily basis. The East African region is not an exception. Over the past one and a half decades, East Africa has experienced numerous devastating climatic catastrophes, some of which have left a trail of deaths and destroyed property.
In a region that largely depends on agriculture for sustenance, the impact of climate change has greatly contributed to the perennial droughts and economic slump that has been bedeviling the East African region.
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A report published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in 2013 highlighted major threats to food supply in the East African region and some parts of Central Africa due to ongoing climate change.
“East Africa is already experiencing rising temperatures, shifting precipitation patterns and increasing extreme events. Without attention to adaptation, the poor will suffer,” the report indicated.
Effects of Climate Change
For more than a decade now, Kenya and the larger East African region have been experiencing unpredictable rainy seasons, making it hard for farmers to prepare their lands in good time. Consequently, food production in the region has dropped significantly, further exposing poor people to the risk of hunger.
When it rains, the East African populace has to deal with devastating floods which, apart from killing people and displacing others, destroy food crops and make farming impossible. These floods are an economic burden to respective governments as they destroy lives and property. They also lead to disease outbreaks like the ongoing cases of cholera in Kenya.
Currently, East Africa is still trying to pick up pieces after a devastating three-month long El Niño rain which was experienced late last year. By the end of December 2015, the rains had displaced over 300,000 people in the entire East African region, according to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) climate prediction and applications center.
Climate change has also led to an increase in temperatures in a region that has been enjoying rather moderate temperatures. For the last five months, Kenyans have been complaining about increased temperatures.
According to reports from NASA, a global increase in temperatures made February 2016 the hottest month in the century.
In a blog from Weather Underground, meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters said: “This result is a true shocker and yet another reminder of the incessant long-term rise in global temperatures, resulting from human-produced greenhouse gases.”
Efforts to Mitigate the Effect
The East African region, through its respective governments, is working out ways to reduce the effect of climate change. In Kenya, for example, the government in partnership with non-governmental organizations such as United Nations and Action Aid, is providing local communities with necessary technical information and early warnings about changing weather patterns.
Money has been allocated to special projects such as upgrading of water channels, building water recycling facilities, constructing waterways, rehabilitating riverbanks and protecting water catchment areas from degradation.
In September 2015, the Kenyan government set aside 5 billion shillings in readiness for the just-ended El Niño rains. Also in preparation for the El Niño season, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) set up a fundraising appeal for El Niño mitigation, asking its members to release the 2016 humanitarian funds. It’s not clear how many member states complied with the order.