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IRI Climate Digest   March 2003

Climate Impacts - February

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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Africa - Uganda  WFP reported that US$1.8 million worth of food aid (between 4000 and 5000 metric tons) will be sent to the drought-stricken Karamoja region of northeastern Uganda between March and June, where over 300 hunger-related deaths have been reported. A Ugandan state minister was quoted as saying that the deaths were the result of poor rains last year. In this primarily pastoral region, herders have been forced to move their herds in search of water during the recent dry conditions. Although people affected by the drought are in need of food aid, large numbers of people in northern Uganda have fled their homes because of conflict and instability in the region, and are also in need of assistance. An assessment conducted by WFP and the government of Uganda indicated that 180,000 metric tons of food would be needed to feed 800,000 IDPs, and 150,000 refugees in northern Uganda, and 195,000 drought-affected people in the Karamoja region. (IRIN, FEWS Net, IRIN)

Africa - Eritrea  As in Ethiopia, aid agencies working in Eritrea have warned that further delays in international food aid will deepen the humanitarian crisis caused by the ongoing severe drought. OCHA has warned that food reserves will be depleted within two months. Two-thirds of the population (2.3 million of 3.4 million people) are at risk of severe food shortages; local grain prices have risen by 100 percent in the last four months. Based on the poor state of the harvest and the worsening state of livestock in the country, the period of greatest need for the population is expected to run from March 2003 to October 2003. Water shortages are a problem as well. According to a WFP Emergency Report, some rivers in the Northern Red Sea state (Semien Keih Bahri) have almost run dry. In other rural locations, people are reportedly walking an average of two to five hours in search of water sources. (IRIN, AFP, FEWS Net, WFP)

Africa - Mauritania  WFP still needs US$28 million to purchase food aid for 420,000 drought-stricken people in southern Mauritania and 160,000 people in Cape Verde, Gambia, Mali, and Senegal. The grain harvest in January and February in Mauritania was expected to provide only about two months' worth of food. Prices of sorghum and millet have risen continuously since the beginning of the year as the available supply dwindles. The late start and poor performance of the 2002 rainy season throughout the western Sahel is blamed for the food shortage in the region. WFP is planning to provide 44,000 metric tons of food aid to Mauritania. (UN Wire, WFP, AFP)

Africa - Mozambique  On 28 February, FEWS Net issued a food security warning for central and southern Mozambique, stating that people are now or will soon become highly food insecure. The situation is expected to continue over the course of the next year; the next significant harvest is not expected until February 2004. In spite of heavy rainfall received in northern Mozambique in January and February, severe drought conditions are occurring this year in central and southern Mozambique. The amount of October-January accumulated rainfall in Maputo is the lowest received since at least 1951/52. This year's drought has caused a near-total failure of rain-fed crops in some areas, compounding the effects of last year's poor crop performance. Interior Gaza and Inhambane, and southern Tete provinces are likely to be the most affected. Already high malnutrition rates are expected to rise over the course of the next year. Deliveries of food aid to these areas have already been increased. In December a Vulnerability Assessment Committee analysis indicated that 650,000 people needed emergency assistance, but that number in now expected to increase. As many as 13 to 20 percent of the population in drought-affected parts of the country are suffering from HIV/AIDS as well. (FEWS Net, FEWS Net, IRIN, IRIN)

The latest IRI seasonal precipitation forecast for April-June 2003 indicates an increased likelihood of above-normal precipitation along much of coastal Mozambique.

Africa - Madagascar  Weeks of heavy rain have heavily damaged crops and led to food shortages in some parts of the country. According to Bodo Henze of the WFP, about 70 percent of the country's rice fields have been flooded, and nearly 99 percent of banana plantations have been destroyed. Reports in February stated that food shortages are occurring in isolated coastal communities, including Nosy Barika along the east coast, where malnitrition rates have dramatically increased.

In the southern part of the country, below-normal rainfall has affected about 80 communities and 60,000 people, according to the WFP. In early March, the Government of Madagascar declared a state of famine in five drought-affected southern districts. Prices of staples such as rice are on the rise. Low rainfall and high winds are reportedly delaying planting for the next agricultural season. (IRIN, IRIN, WFP, CRS)

According to the latest IRI seasonal precipitation forecast, there is a slightly increased likelihood of above-normal rainfall for much of southern Madagascar during the April-June 2003 season.

Africa - Malawi  According to FEWS Net, preliminary estimates indicate that maize production is expected to increase by 31 percent from last year to 2 million metric tons, and may produce enough to slightly exceed its national annual consumption requirements. The Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation attributed the expected improvement to favorable weather conditions and increased agricultural inputs. Parts of the country received above-normal rainfall in January and February. The government of Malawi has decided to sell 50,000 metric tons of maize from imports bought with a World Bank loan. However, humanitarian organizations continue to warn that large numbers of people in the country still require food aid for survival (IRIN, 02/24). The latest Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) report notes that about 3.6 million people are still in need of immediate food aid (IRIN, 02/17). Just weeks earlier, WFP had warned that it may need to extend its aid operations in the country due to the expected late harvest of part of the maize crop. A FEWS Net spokesman also noted that in spite of the optimistic forecast for the harvest, an early end to the rains could still damage the maize crop, which is in various stages of development in different areas of the country. (IRIN, IRIN, IRIN, FEWS Net, IRIN)

A slightly enhanced probability of above-normal rainfall in northern Malawi during April-June 2003 is included in the latest IRI seasonal precipitation forecast.

Asia - Pakistan  Torrential rains along the south coast and northern Pakistan have claimed at least 100 lives and injured hundreds more by causing road accidents, damage to houses and prompting landslides. (Map of affected areas) Pakistan's meteorological office described the mid-February rains in northern Pakistan as the the heaviest in 30 years with respect to their areal coverage and intensity. The rains reportedly reversed falling water levels in the Tarbela and Mangla reservoirs, which were heading for the minimum levels at which dams can operate to produce hydroelectric power and irrigate farmland, and brought relief to farmers by providing much-needed soil moisture before the onset of spring planting. (IRIN, DFO, IRIN, BBC, UNHCR, Reuters)

According to the latest IRI seasonal forecast, there is a slightly enhanced likelihood of above-normal precipitation in parts of northern Pakistan during the April-June 2003 season.


Africa - Mozambique  A cholera epidemic in Mozambique has killed 40 people since September 2002, including 10 since the beginning of 2003, and affected approximately 450 people per month in the northern and central parts of the country. The current heavy rains have exacerbated the poor sanitary conditions of these regions. (All Africa, All Africa)

Asia - Indonesia  Hundreds of people have been affected by the mosquito-borne viral disease, chikungunya, as it has spread across the Indonesian archipelago during this unusually wet rainy season. During February 2003, 50 to 100 people suffering from chikungunya have been admitted to hospitals in Kupang each day. Chikungunya is characterized by high fever, flu symptoms and joint pains. (ProMED)

South America - Ecuador  Heavy rains have contributed to outbreaks of leptospirosis and dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) in Ecuador. Twenty-two cases of the the potentially fatal DHF have been reported so far this year, 2 more than the total for all of 2002. The rains provide breeding grounds for the dengue mosquito and standing water pools where the leptospirosis bacteria (from cattle, rodent or canine urine) multiply. Fifty cases of leptospirosis have been reported. (Reuters, ProMED)


Africa - Guinea-Bissau  Cereal production for 2002-2003 is expected to drop 12 percent compared to the previous year due to poor rainfall in the second half of 2002, according to a WFP report. WFP contemplates that it may need to increase food assistance in May/June when households are expected to deplete their stocks of rice. In January, WFP distributed 240 tons of food aid to 22,900 people under a new program. The northern regions of Cacheu, Oio, Bafata, and Gabu are the most affected by food shortages. (IRIN, WFP)

Africa - Swaziland  High temperatures in January and February and poor rainfall are being blamed for extensive damage to the maize crop in parts of Swaziland, particularly the lowveld. Crops that were planted early, in October and November, have been most damaged by the low rainfall amounts during the rainy season. (IRIN, IRIN)

Asia - Afghanistan  Unprecedented in the past four years of drought, heavy rain and snow in Afghanistan caused at least five deaths, but also raised hopes for a successful summer harvest. (AFP) Rain and snowfall amounts in southern Afghanistan so far this year were 80 percent more than those from all of last year, according to meteorological records by FAO. (Xinhua) Many say the rains could not have come at a better time as the wheat crops are at germination stage, which requires adequate soil moisture for the crop's success. (World Vision) Mountain snow provides most of Afghanistan's annual water supply and the recent rain and snow restored water resources to 75 percent of their normal levels. (IWPR) The central, east, and northeast areas of the country, which produce one-third of its wheat, benefited the most from February's precipitation, though seasonal precipitation remains well below normal. Despite the optimism and positive signs of drought recovery, more rain is needed to increase moisture reserves for winter crops and water resources for irrigation systems. Wheat output will depend largely on moisture availability during the critical reproductive to grain-filling stage in the spring. (USDA)

The IRI seasonal precipitation forecast for April-June 2003 suggests an enhanced probability of above normal precipitation in northern Afghanistan.

Asia - China  Scarce water supplies have caused some wheat-growing land to be taken out of production on the North China Plain, which accounts for 70 percent of the country's winter wheat harvest. While the precipitation amounts in January and February were only slightly below normal, there was not enough rainfall to erase the the 3 to 4 inch precipitation deficits in the Shandong and Henan provinces. Some farmers in the Yellow River valley were unable to plant their 2003/04 winter wheat crop because rainfall and soil moisture were inadequate. (FAS, AgJournal)

North America - Canada  A February report issued by the USDA and Statistics Canada indicated that the recent two-year drought had varied impacts on Canada's cattle herd, though the cattle ranchers in the province of Alberta were hit particularly hard. As of January 1, 2003, the province's cattle herd, which accounts for over 40 percent of Canada's herd, was 10.4% below year-earlier levels, due to dwindling feed supplies and soaring feed prices. Cattle inventory increases in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and British Columbia in 2002 were attributed in part to the forecast of increasing prices for cattle due to the dwindling numbers in Alberta. Inventories in Ontario and Quebec increased as more feeder cattle were shipped east where the feed supplies were more plentiful. Exports from Alberta to other provinces almost tripled from July to December 2002, compared with the same period of 2001.

The harvest of barley, the primary feed grain in western Canada, decreased by 36 percent in 2002, which complicated the 21 percent decline in 2001. The value of the loss in production for the six major grains and oilseeds is estimated at nearly $2.8 billion, though this figure is partially offset by the overall lower costs to farmers due to decreased inputs, government payments to farmers, and higher prices for harvested crops. Low levels of grain production and the associated reduction in farm income also significantly impacted businesses that supply products and services to the primary agricultural sector which is a significant contributor to the western Canadian economy. Grain companies, railways, and farm machinery businesses all reported significant declines in business activity. (USDA/Statistics Canada, Canadian Wheat Board)

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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