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IRI Climate Digest   September 2003

Climate Impacts - August

Contributions to this page were made by IRI researchers
M. Bell, Dr. A. Giannini, E. Grover, Dr. M. Hopp,
Dr. B. Lyon, Dr. A. Seth,

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Agriculture - Africa: Sahelian,Africa: West  Abundant rainfall continued in August throughout most of the Sahelian region of West Africa (precipitation percentile map), generally leaving crops such as millet, sorghum, maize, rice, groundnuts (peanuts) and cotton in good condition in Burkina Faso, Chad, The Gambia, Mali, and Niger (FAO, IRIN). After a late start to the rains in Cape Verde, improved rainfall in August benefitted crops and pastures. In Senegal, a record cotton crop is expected, and President Wade announced that maize production will exceed government targets by 50 percent (IRIN). In spite of improved rainfall in southern Mauritania, northern Senegal, and western Mali, large numbers of people in the region will continue to rely on WFP food aid during the coming year as a result of last summer's drought, and the destructive cold weather and flooding in January 2002. There have been isolated incidents of flooding in West Africa during this year's rainy season. Several ancient mud buildings in Timbuktu, Mali were damaged by heavy rains and flooding in August (BBC). In the Tomonian district of Mali, at least 700 grain storehouses were destroyed, 1800 homes were flooded, and hundreds of livestock were killed. The volume of water in the Niger River at Niamey was about eight times its normal value in July, and was flowing at its greatest rate since 1928 (IRIN). Flooding along the Kaduna River displaced as many as 80,000 people around the city of Kaduna in northern Nigeria. (ReliefWeb, IRIN).

Health - Ethiopia,Sudan  Each day several hundred new cases of malaria and diarrhea are reported at Red Crescent and other medical clinics located in northeastern Sudan and northern Ethiopia following the flooding in the region last month. (August CID Report) These diseases have been particularly hard to diagnose due to the prevalence of malnutrition in some areas. As with most flood situations, there are concerns with possible outbreaks of cholera and typhoid, as the flood season usually lasts into September. (IFRC, Reuters)

Localized heavy rain continued in other areas of the country as well. Landslides and flooding were reported in the Gewanie area of the northeast along the Awash River and in the southern province of Gamo Goffa. (DPA, AFP)

Agriculture - Lesotho  Winter crops have largely failed in Lesotho due to poor rains over the past five months. Wheat, peas, and vegetables have been most affected. Spring cultivation will likely be delayed as well because it is more difficult in dry conditions. Overall, cereal production this year has been about 60 percent of the five-year average and the poor winter harvest has worsened the humanitarian situation in Lesotho. The WFP is considering advancing the start date of its Targeted Food Distribution programme that was originally planned to begin in November. (IRIN)

Agriculture - Namibia  The drought in Namibia has continued to affect agriculture and food security. (May CID Report) The Caprivi region is feeling the effects of both climate extremes after being hit by severe flooding in May. The situation has been described as "critical" in the Karas, Hardap, and Omaheke regions where there is no grazing fodder for livestock. Similar reports have come out of the Kunene Region despite the fact that springs are still running in that area. The Namibia Agricultural Union and Southern Namibia Farmers Union recently appealed to commercial farmers to sell some of their livestock. Many water holes have dried up due to the poor rains, making the situation worse for those in the affected areas. According to the Emergency Management Unit, 400,000 people may need food aid in the coming year. (Namibian, IRIN, Namibian, Namibian, Namibian, IRIN)

Agriculture - Rwanda  Crop production in Rwanda has been satisfactory over the past year with the exception of that in the Bugesera Region in southeastern province of Kigali-Rural. The region experienced crop failures in January and July due to poor rains, leaving 45,000 people in need of food aid. The WFP has issued an appeal to help those living in the region as well as refugees in other areas of the country who are also experiencing food shortages. (FEWSNet, IRIN) According to the latest IRI Seasonal Forecast, Rwanda has an enhanced probability of below-normal rainfall during the October-December 2003 season.

Agriculture - Somalia  Cereal production is lower than expected in southern Somalia due to "erratic and unevenly distributed" rains during April-June (Gu season), according to the Food Security Assessment Unit. April, May, and June rains are important to the maize and sorghum crops as sowing typically occurs in April. The low production levels are also being blamed on poor irrigation infrastructure and inaccessibility and pests. The southwestern Bay Region and southern Lower Shabelle Regions were most affected and normally account for 70 percent of the country's sorghum production and 60 percent of maize production, respectively. (IRIN)

Dry conditions may continue to affect agriculture in Somalia. The latest IRI Seasonal Forecast indicates an enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation for the October-December 2003 season. Planting for the region's second cropping season (Der season) typically occurs in October and November.

Agriculture - Tanzania  The FAO has indicated that cereal outputs in Tanzania are expected to be below average from the recent harvest due to poor rains over the past six months. This July/August harvest marks the end of the main cropping season in the northern and northeastern regions of the country. These areas have a bimodal rain pattern and, consequently, also typically have a minor cropping season that begins with planting in October and November. The central and southern regions of the country, which typically have a single rainy and cropping season, have experienced poor rains as well and may feel its impact in the coming months as they will also begin planting in November. Livestock are also at risk if the drought continues to impact the availability of water and pastures.

The poor harvest has greatly impacted food security in the country. A vulnerability assessment conducted by government officials, NGOs, and UN agencies in June and July indicated that nearly 2 million people may be at risk of severe food shortages between October 2003 and March 2004. The Ministry of Agriculture's Food Security Information Team has also indicated that staple food prices have begun to rise with some villages recording price increases of more than 250 percent. The government has issued an appeal for 45,000 mt of maize and 3200 mt of seeds for the October/November planting season. (IRIN, IRIN, FEWS, FAO)

The latest IRI Seasonal Forecast for October-December 2003 indicates an enhanced probability of below-normal precipitation for all of East Africa, including Tanzania.


Hazards - India  Continuous rainfall in the states of Orissa and Chhattisgarh in eastern India caused flooding along the Mahanadi River. According to the UNDP, the flooding began on August 27 and affected 21 districts, 3.3 million people, 102,000 houses, and 4.2 lakh hectares of cropland in Orissa. Fifty eight deaths have also been reported. Concerns will shift to impeding the spread of water-borne diseases as the flood waters recede and people begin returning to their homes. (UNDP, UNDP, Reuters)

Hazards - Nepal  Heavy seasonal rain continued in August in northwestern Nepal, bringing floods and landslides. Since the rains began in mid-June, there have been 244 deaths, 8700 families affected, and 3115 homes destroyed as approximately two-thirds of the country have been affected. Hundreds of acres of crops and hundreds of livestock have also been lost. Five-hundred people were reportedly killed in last year's monsoon flooding. Stronger relief networks have been credited with helping to keep this year's death toll down after some areas in the country received its heaviest rains in 30 years. (July CID Report) The affected districts have reported increases in cases of typhoid, encephalitis and dysentery and hundreds have been affected by eye diseases in the Morang district due to the polluted water. Seasonal monsoon rains in Nepal typically begin to shift southward during September. (AFP, OCHA, ReliefWeb, IFRC)

Health - Pakistan  The impacts of flood waters in the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan in southern Pakistan continued through August. Government and NGO estimates indicated that approximately 1,000,000 people were affected, 220-300 people died, and 142,000 hectares of cropland were lost when the region received its highest rainfall totals in a decade. (July CID Report) While the government has received considerable praise on their response to the crisis, aid has also come from the WFP, UNICEF, and other NGOs. Concerns have now shifted to the dangers of receding flood waters, primarily water-borne diseases and other health problems related to shortage of food and clean water. Medical teams have been mainly treating cases of malaria, typhoid, and diarrhea. (Disaster Relief, IRIN, IRIN, IRIN)


Agriculture - Europe: East,Europe: South  Poor weather conditions, particularly this summer's heat wave and below-normal rainfall, have hit European agriculture as some countries experience their worst harvest since World War II. France is expecting to lose 20 percent of its grain harvests. Thin snow cover and a severely cold winter preceded the hot, dry spring and summer in Southeastern Europe, making the situation even worse. Much of the damage was done to the wheat crop, while weather-resistant aggregate coarse grains faired a bit better. According to the FAO, the wheat harvests in Ukraine and Moldova are down 75 and 80 percent from normal, respectively. Overall, wheat production in the European Union is down 10 percent from last year and 7 percent from the previous 5-year average. (European Commission, European Commission, AFP, FAO, FAO, USDA/FAS, The Gaurdian)

Health - France,Italy,Netherlands,Portugal,United Kingdom  Casualties from the heatwave that hit Europe during the summer have reached into the thousands. In France 11,435 deaths, many due to hyperthermia and dehydration amongst pensioners, were reported after temperatures rose above 40C (104F). Air pollution is believed to have exacerbated the situation as the heat and lack of wind left smog hanging over Paris. Up to 4000 deaths in Italy, 1,400 in the Netherlands, over 1,300 in Portugal, 900 in the UK and 100 in Spain, are also being attributed to the heatwave. (BBC, CNN, CNN, Reuters)

Hazards - Portugal  Portugal suffered through what many referred to as its worst forest fire season in living memory due to this summer's heat wave and strong winds. Twenty deaths have been reported since the fires began in mid-July. An assessment by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) indicated that over 301,000 hectares of forest and 44,000 hectares of agricultural land were destroyed, which is a 300 percent increase over the average losses during the last 20 years. Total damage estimates have reached 1 billion euros with the forest industry being hit particularly hard. The forest fires comprised the first major disaster for which aid was given from the recently established European Union Solidarity Fund. (FAO, European Commision, AFP, ReliefWeb, BBC)

North America

Hazards - Canada  Lack of rain has been named as the most important factor in causing British Columbia's most active forest fire season in 10 years. Some areas of the western Canadian province have had their driest year since 1929. Approximately 11,000 people had been evacuated from British Columbia and Alberta as of early August. Another 30,000 people were evacuated due to a single fire near Kelowna on Okanagan Mountain in mid-August. The fires have affected both the wine and lumber industry which are prevalent in the Okanagan region. Lumber prices were driven up on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as lumber companies pulled their logging crews out of the area. Overall, the Canadian forest fire season was more active, in terms of fire starts, than usual, based on the 10-year average. (BBC, BBC, CIFFC)

Health - United States  Heavy spring rains and hot summer weather are believed to be contributing to the unusually high number of cases of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus in parts of the western United States this year. So far 973 cases and 13 deaths have been confirmed in Colorado, and 239 cases and 4 deaths in Wyoming. (ProMED, CDC)

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