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IRI Climate Digest   February 2003

Climate Impacts - January

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

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Agriculture - Botswana  According to the Minister of Finance for Botswana, Baledzi Gaolethe, as of the end of December 2002, only 4 percent of the available baseline amount of cultivated land in the country had been plowed (IRIN). Along with much of the rest of the southern Africa region, Botswana has been feeling the effects of last year's drought. In particular, livestock have suffered from the lack of good grazing land. However, the government has undertaken a variety of drought relief efforts, including public works projects and feeding programs for children. Large numbers of refugees from neighboring Zimbabwe continue to make their way into the country; around 1600 are sent back every month (BBC)

Hazards - Ethiopia and Eritrea  In Ethiopia, approximately 11.3 million people will require 1.44 million metric tons of food aid during 2003, according to the joint Government of Ethiopia/UN appeal issued on 7 December 2002 (FEWS Net). Several years of drought conditions and poor rains during both the March-May and June-September 2002, rainfall seasons significantly contributed to the deteriorating situation in the Greater Horn. Production of the primary export crop, coffee, has declined by about 30% this year due to the drought, even as the world-wide market price of coffee continues to decline (BBC). Recent reports indicate that malnutrition rates in the country continue to increase (IRIN) and the population is in immediate need of supplementary foods (IRIN). In parts of the Amhara region , malnutrition rates have risen above 15 percent. Eritrea received extremely poor rainfall again in 2002, which has contributed to a deep decline in national cereal production (down 70% from the 10-year average). The cereal deficit for 2003 is expected to be about 300,000 metric tons. A 19 November appeal for aid estimated 1.4 million people are being affected by the drought (FEWS Net), and as much as two-thirds of the 3.3 million population is in danger of food shortages. Malnutrition rates have risen as high as 28 percent, and about 10,000 children are severely malnourished (IRIN).

Hazards - Madagascar  Persistent heavy rain throughout most of January in northern Madagascar caused flooding, particularly in the provinces of Antananariva and Fianarantsoa, which led to 16 deaths and affected nearly 19,800 people. According to OCHA, the Meteorological Department of Madagascar indicated that by 23 January, accumulated precipitation had reached 550 mm, twice the average January rainfall for the region (IRIN; OCHA; OCHA). This unusually heavy rainfall during the early part of the month was followed by the landfall of the remnants of tropical cyclone Fari at the end of the month, which brought additional heavy rainfall to central and southern Madagascar (FEWS Net; FEWS Net). January precipitation amounts were in the top 10% of the 1961-90 climatology across much of Madagascar.

Hazards - Mauritania  According to a FEWS Net report released in early January, the food security situation in Mauritania is worsening quickly as a result of adverse weather during 2002. The cold wave during 9-11 January 2002 killed approximately 120,000 cattle, sheep, and goats, and damaged and destroyed pasture land and harvested crops. Additionally, the western Sahelian drought during the summer rainy season of 2002 heavily damaged rainfed crop production throughout the region. The outlook for the production of river-bottomland crops is currently bleak as well. According to government estimates, as of October 2002, 27 percent of communes in the country were extremely food insecure, and 40 percent were highly food insecure. Well over 1 million of Mauritania's 2.7 million inhabitants are now believed to be food insecure; 420,000 are considered to be at risk of starvation. Famine conditions which had previously been confined to the Aftout area have now spread the the Senegal River valley, Hodh El Chargui, and Hodh El Gharbi, and 52,000 people are immediately threatened. In these areas, residents currently have no way of covering food needs for 9 to 10 months of the coming year. With the loss of huge numbers of livestock a year ago, people will not be able to rely on normal coping mechanisms, and the population of the country is now utterly dependent upon outside food aid. In September, the government of Mauritania made a request of 37,000 metric tons of cereals and 14,000 metric tons of other foodstuffs (IRIN). Although arrangements have been made for WFP and World Vision Mauritania to supply 13,500 metric tons of food aid to 88,000 people in the Assaba, Brakna, and Tagant regions in southern Senegal, international pledges of assistance have been slow in coming. WFP food aid will also go to Mali, Gambia, Senegal, and Cape Verde, all of which were affected by the poor 2002 rainy season. (FEWS Net, IRIN, IRIN, WFP)

Health - Mozambique  A cholera outbreak in northern Mozambique has affected over 400 people with 12 deaths reported. The heavy flooding has also affected the drinking water quality. (UNWire)

Hazards - Mozambique  The continuing drought has reportedly led to at least 9 hunger-related deaths in Mozambique in the northwestern province of Tete. Some people in the region had begun relying on wild fruits for sustenance (IRIN). WFP and UNICEF announced they would provide supplementary food aid for about 141,000 young children and 71,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women (Reuters). The food situation is apparently worse than expected in some remote areas of southern Mozambique as well (IRIN). Poor rains in the south from November to January appear to have badly damaged the important first season maize crop in that part of the country, which was severely affected by drought last year. According to FEWS, sorghum, millet, and casava are also being stressed by a shortage of rainfall (FEWS Net). About 650,000 people, one-third of whom are in Maputo, Gaza, and Inhambane, are expected to need about 31,000 metric tons of emergency food aid until March 2003 (SADC; IRIN). (Mozambique VAC, Nov-Dec 2002 Emergency Vulnerability Report)

Hazards - Mozambique and Malawi  During the first week of January, the remnants of tropical cyclone Delfina brought heavy rainfall and flooding to northern Mozambique, particularly Nampula and Zambezia provinces, and much of Malawi. Approximately 300,000 and 100,000 people were left homeless in Malawi and Mozambique, respectively. An AP report from 18 February indicated that at least 47 people in Mozambique had died in the flooding, 213,000 people had been affected, about 6000 homes and schools had been damaged or destroyed, and 34,000 hectares of crops had been lost. The flooding complicated food relief activities in these areas; WFP had reported that up to 10% of its food aid recipients in Malawi had been cut off. (OCHA, AFP, Reuters, IRIN, IFRC, AP, CIP)

Hazards - Southern Africa  In general, rainfall since October 2002 has remained below normal across the southern African countries most affected by the ongoing food crisis. With the exception of northern Mozambique and parts of Malawi, precipitation remained below average during January. An SADC Regional Emergency Food Security Assessment Report released on 30 January stated that a major humanitarian crisis had so far been averted as of December as food imports have largely kept pace with the cereal gap in the six most affected countries. However, more than 1 million metric tons of imported food were still required through the end of March. The number of people in each country in need of emergency cereal food aid from December 2002 to March 2003, and the estimated required amounts are as follows: for Zambia, 2,770,000 people require 133,000 MT; in Zimbabwe, 7,180,000 require 345,000 MT; in Lesotho, 760,000 require 36,000 MT; in Malawi, 3,590,000 require 173,000 MT; in Mozambique, 650,000 require 31,000 MT; and in Swaziland, 300,000 require 15,000 MT (SADC). In January, worsening food security conditions were reported in Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe as a result of continuing inadequate rainfall and the deteriorating economic situation (IRIN; OCHA; IRIN).

The latest IRI seasonal forecast for March-May 2003 indicates a slightly increased probability of below-normal rainfall for most of southern Africa.

Health - Tunisia  Heavy rainfalls have resulted in severe flooding leaving thousands homeless in Tunisia. Many are suffering from respiratory tract infections due to the lack of adequate housing. (IFRC)

Hazards - Tunisia and Algeria  During 22-28 January, parts of northern Tunisia and Algeria received unusually heavy rainfalls of 25 to 100 mm, bumping monthly amounts for January into the top 10% (map) of the historical rainfall distribution (NCDC, CPC). According to an IFRC report, Kasserine in Tunisia received snow and experienced below-freezing temperatures. As many as 5500 families (27500 people) in the two most affected governorates had to be evacuated as their homes had been destroyed by flood waters. Some of the flooding reportedly occurred along the Oued Medjerda River. In total, as many as ten people had been killed by the unusual weather (AFP). (IFRC, IFRC, IFRC)

Hazards - Zambia  The food situation in Zambia continues to worsen. So far, food imports have met only 35 percent of the stated needs. The Southern, Western, and Lusaka Provinces, where more than 75 percent of the population requires food aid, are the regions of greatest food insecurity. Extraordinarily high prices for food, such as maize meal, which is reportedly twice as expensive as normal for this time of year, have made it even more difficult for people to purchase the food they need. According to a multi-agency Emergency Food Security Assessment reported by FEWS Net, only 14 percent of the agricultural land in the country is being utilized, while agriculture employs 67 percent of the labor force. Adverse weather along with past agriculture policy and HIV/AIDS are blamed for limiting agricultural production. After early initial rains in late October, rainfall remained well below average throughout the country until early December. Crops that were planted early were severely damaged by the lack of water, forcing many farmers to replant. However, rainfall was again well below normal throughout Zambia in January. (IRIN, FEWS Net; Zambia Emergency Food Security Assessment, VAC report; IRIN)

Hazards - Zimbabwe  A multi-agency vulnerability assessment in December determined that the number of people in need of food aid until March 2003 in Zimbabwe has risen from 6.7 to 7.2 million. An apparent discrepancy between reported grain imports and local grain distribution by the government's Grain Marketing Board has also arisen. According to a UN Humanitarian Coordinator's Situation Report, the national food deficit may reach 222,068 metric tons (IRIN). Dry conditions since mid-December are also being blamed for an expected large decline in tobacco production this year. The Zimbabwe Tobacco Association reported that production of the country's most important source of foreign currency may decline by 50% from last year. The tobacco industry is the single largest employer in the country. (IRIN)


Agriculture - India  The same cold wave that killed over 1700 people in India and surrounding countries exacerbated the impact of the failed monsoon of 2002 on India's crops. Frost has damaged a variety of standing crops, including the lentil, field pea, brinjal and chilli crops. The intense fog brought on by the cold wave, and the humidity that came with it, have kept much of the wheat crop from getting enough sunlight. The combination of dense fog, low sunshine and high humidity is "a matter of [large] concern" becuase it is "very conducive" for the appearance of aphids in sugarcane and mustard and late blight in potato, according to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). (Financial Express, AP, Business Line)

Health - India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan  Over 1,700 people died in Bangladesh, Nepal, and northern India's coldest winter in 40 years. Most of the deaths were children, the elderly, and those who were ill or had little protection from the cold. The cold weather has worsened the suffering of populations already severely affected by drought, in the case of India, and monsoon floods in Bangladesh and Nepal. Most of the 700 deaths in Bangladesh were reported in the northwestern district of Rajshahi and the southeastern district of Barisal. More than 900 deaths were reported in India, primarily in the northeastern states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The cold wave also crippled the daily activities of thousands of people in the eastern and western Tarai districts of Nepal engaged in winter vegetable cultivation, where 60 deaths were reported, and the dense fog that accompanied the harsh cold in Pakistan led to traffic accidents that killed 16 people. Twelve Afghan refugees in Pakistan reportedly died in the first two weeks of January due to the unusual cold spell. There has also been an increase in cases of pneumonia, asthma and other respiratory ailments in the region. (IRIN, IFRC, AFP, Reuters, OCHA, ReliefWeb, CIP)

Agriculture - Mongolia  The IFRC reported that the situation in Mongolia is worsening as, for the fourth consecutive year, the region has been hit by severe snow storms. This has complicated the effects of the 3 previous drought/dzud cycles (2000, 2001, 2002). Some 665,000 people, or 133,000 families, in 17 of Mongolia's 21 provinces have been severely affected by this year's dzud. Since the end of December, blizzards have killed four people and 80,000 head of livestock have died of starvation and extreme cold. A drought this summer prevented a large number of herders from collecting enough hay for the winter and the winter started earlier than normal this year so many herders are running out of fodder. With new pastures not available until May many animals will not make it through the winter. The State Emergency Commission has forecasted that 2.3 to 2.5 million animals will die within the next 3-4 months. (IFRC, IFRC, IFRC, Reuters, DisasterRelief)

Agriculture - Pakistan  Pakistan is still feeling the effects of poor monsoon rains in July and August 2002, which exacerbated the five-year long drought in the southwestern province of Balochistan. The drought threatens the livelihoods of millions of farmers and nomads in Balochistan, where 22 of the province's 26 districts have been affected. The Pakistani government announced a US $33-million relief package to the region to provide immediate food aid, emergency health care, and fodder for livestock. The European Community's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) will offer five million euro during 2003 to help the drought victims in Balochistan. The long-term drought has affected the water supply as well. Water supply to the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board has been reduced to half, owing to the depletion of water level in the Khanpur Dam. (Dawn, IRIN, Dawn)


Hazards - Australia  Widespread dry conditions throughout eastern Australia in January intensified rainfall deficiencies, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). Seventy-one percent of the country is in serious or severe drought and it continued to affect a variety of sectors in January. Officials have partially blamed Australia's worst-ever trade deficit of almost $3 billion on the drought's impact on rural exports. The worst fires to ever hit the capital city of Canberra killed four people, destroyed 400 homes and forced thousands to evacuate under a state of emergency. Fires in Victoria have razed more than 40 homes and blackened over 1 million hectares of park and forest. Extreme heat in the state also helped to produce a new electricity demand record. This is especially significant given that New South Wales normally records its highest demand in winter.

Australia's wildlife is feeling the effects of the drought and the resulting bushfires. Koalas have started abandoning their offspring in search of water in residential areas, while hundreds of others were killed in bushfires. According to wildlife officials, it may take 15 years for the Koala population to recover. Numerous endangered species, including the mountain pygmy possum and spotted tree-frog, were hit hard by the bush fires that destroyed large portions of their habitat. Experts believe that 90 percent of animals caught and affected by the fire may have perished or will be put down. (CNN, CNN, CNN, BOM, CIP)

The most recent IRI seasonal forecast for March-May indicates an increased likelihood of below normal precitation for northern Australia.


Hazards - Greece, Italy, Macedonia  Heavy rains across Greece, Italy, and Macedonia brought floods and landslides to numerous areas. The regions hit worst by the floods in Greece included Oropos, Marathon, Halkoutsi and Dilesi in eastern Attica, the islet of Angistri in the Saronic Gulf, and Karditsa. Particularly hard hit were crops at the villages of Kypseli, Astritsa and Gourgoviton.Widespread damage was also reported across southern Italy. One person died and about 1000 were evacuated in the 3 affected regions of Puglia, Abruzzo and Molise. The Konjarka, Lipkovska, and Vardar Rivers in Macedonia overflowed with the heavy rains. Over 200 households were flooded, some 600 people were evacuated, and electricty supply from 5 power stations were disrupted in Kumanovo, northeast from Skopje. Two deaths and 4,000 affected people were reported due to the floods in Macedonia. (CIP)

The lastest IRI seasonal forecast for the March-May season indicates an enhanced probability of above-normal precipitation for portions of Southern Europe, including Greece and Macedonia.

North America

Energy - Canada and United States  Severe drought on the North American prairie is forcing big hydroelectric utilities to scramble for replacement power, pushing electricity prices to more than twice year-ago levels. The situation is especially harsh in Canada, drying up the usual flow of megawatts sent south into the United States. The western U.S. is feeling the effects as well. The snowpack in Montana that provides most of the water that flows through Western Area Power Administration's hydro plants on the upper Missouri River is only at 58 percent of normal. (Reuters)

Agriculture - United States  The ongoing drought in the western United States is continuing to have a variety of impacts. AP reported that ranchers in Montana and Wyoming are raising fewer cattle and record-low numbers of sheep, a result of the continued drought and poor prices. The drought has left ranchers with limited grazing options and often forced them to pay high prices for feed. The drought was also estimated to have had a $1.2 billion impact on Nebraska's economy where the federal government declared the entire state a disaster area. The snowpack, which supplies 70 percent or more of the surface water in most Western states, was between 60 and 80 percent of average throughout the West as of the end of January. Water restrictions have been accordingly imposed in major cities across the western U.S. The forests have been hit as well as pine trees that are weakened by the drought have been unable to stave off the bark beetle, which is responsible for destroying at least 15 million pinyon pines across the the West and South during the past year. (AP, CIP, AP)

South America

Hazards - Brazil  Fifty four deaths and the destruction of nearly 2100 homes in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais have been attributed to heavy rains and resulting floods. Floods and landslides also hit areas in Rio de Janeiro, Espirito Santo, and Sao Paulo where 33 deaths were reported. A total of 45 municipalities were declared disaster or emergency zones in the affected region. (, IFRC, ReliefWeb,

Material for this portion of the IRI Climate Information Digest has been extracted from the UN/OCHA Reliefweb (RW), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Doctors Without Borders (DWB), Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED), USDA/NOAA Joint Agricultural Weather Facility (JAWF) and the Fishmeal Exporters Organization (FEO). Additional information was obtained from the NOAA/OGP Climate Information Program, Red Cross/CNN/IBM Disaster Relief (DRO), COMTEX, CNN, International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), and the Power Marketing Association PMA.

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