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IRI Climate Digest   May 2003

Climate Impacts - April

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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Hazards - Africa: Greater Horn  Heavy rains during the last half of April in northern Kenya and southern parts of Somalia and Ethiopia led to flooding in these areas that has continued into the month of May. The Nyanza and Western Kenya provinces and districts in the Eastern and North-Eastern provinces were affected, as were tens of thousands of Somali refugees in the northeast. One report indicated that 40 people in Kenya had been killed in the flooding, which was being blamed by the government partly on the poor condition of flood and water control structures. Landslides and a dam break affecting the city's water supply were reported in Nairobi. In Ethiopia, an IRIN report indicated that 40 people had been killed in flooding along the Wabe Shabelle River, and 95,000 people had been forced from their homes. In southern Somalia, flooding in the Juba River Valley had reportedly destroyed farms and property in late April. The region is in the middle of its spring rainy season, which runs from about April to June. (FEWS Net, OCHA, IRIN, IRIN, IRIN, IRIN)

The latest IRI Seasonal Forecast indicates a slightly increased probability of above-normal precipitation for much of central Ethiopia and northern and western Kenya during June-August 2003.

Agriculture - Africa: Southern  At the end of the southern Africa rainy season, an FAO report has characterized this year's prospects for a harvest in the region as "generally favorable", except in parts of Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique, and Swaziland. However, twenty-five countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including most of southern Africa, continue to face food emergencies. Although rainfall for the 2002-2003 rainy season was near- to above- normal over northern Mozambique, much of Malawi, and eastern portions of Zimbabwe and Zambia due in large part to two tropical cyclones, precipitation was well below-normal in parts of southern Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique, and in Swaziland. In southern Mozambique, WFP has decided to extend emergency operations into June 2003, and increase the number of aid recipients to 650,000. The food agency has decided to reduce aid distributions in Zimbabwe by half during the May-June harvest, except in areas where crops failed. In Swaziland, about 250,000 people currently depend upon food aid from WFP because of drought-related crop failures, and reservior levels are far below normal, prompting the government to ask users at all levels to conserve water for the dry winter months to come. (FAO, Reuters, IRIN, IRIN, FEWS Net)

Hazards - Kenya,Somalia  Despite the heavy rain and flooding in northern Kenya and southern Somalia, coastal Kenya and northern Somalia remain anomalously dry. Nearly all of Somaliland (self-declared republic) is experiencing water and food shortages and livestock, the basis of livelihood for the majority of the population, have begun dying. (IRIN) Water shortages have also become prevalent in areas in Puntland (self-declared autonomous region). Puntland's acting information minister stated that problems are most severe in Sool and Sanaag, which are claimed by both Somliland and Puntland. Puntland's top priority has been to deliver water to those in need in affected areas and distribute food to those who had lost livestock. It has also requested assistance from international aid agencies. (IRIN) Famine conditions resulting from the current drought conditions in coastal Kenya are seriously affecting approximately 200,000 people. The most affected districts include Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu mainland, Malindi's Magarini, Taita Taveta, and Tana River. There have been conflicting reports about the occurrence of starvation deaths in these regions. (AllAfrica/The East African Standard)

Hazards - Malawi  Heavy rains triggered flooding and landslides in the districts of Rumphi and Karonga in northern Malawi . The rains came in late March and early April, at the end of the country's climatological rainy season. Bridges and roads were swept away, 4 people were killed, and 2000 families were left homeless. The country's only coal mine restricted its production capacity by one third due to the floods. According to an official from the ministry of agriculture, over 500 hectares of maize, potatoes, and rice were destroyed along with hundreds of livestock. These agricultural outputs were much needed as the country is just now starting to recover from its worst famine on record. (AFP, UN Resident Coordinator)

Agriculture - Namibia  Namibia is starting to feel the effects of drought, particularly in the southern half of the country which is climatologically more arid. Most parts of the country saw below normal rainfall during the second half of the climatological rainy season from January to March, though some areas in the northern half of the country experienced above normal precipitation in April. Commercial farmers in the south and communal farmers in the Caprivi region of the north are among those affected. Irrigated maize crops are doing well, but the mahangu (pearl millet) crop is performing poorly for the second straight year, and the Namibia Early Warning and Food Information System has forecasted severe cereal shortages. Livestock farmers, who comprise approximately 90 percent of the agricultural sector, are expected to feel the greatest impacts of the drought. Grazing conditions have reached critical levels in Omaheke, Hardap, and Karas, and farmers have already started selling off their excess animals due to decreased grazing areas. (IRIN, WFP, PANA)

The drought has begun to impact water resources as well. Lakes in the Oshana Region used for supplying water to animals have dried up and farmers have started to move to where water is available. Dam levels have dropped significantly throughout the country. Goreangab dam outside the capital city of Windhoek is at 77.9 percent of full capacity, compared to 96.8 percent at the same time last year. Von Bach dam, which provides water to Windhoek, is at 30.4 percent of full capacity, compared to 49.2 percent at the same time last year. Windhoek is expected to introduce water-rationing measures in the coming months. (PANA, AllAfrica/The Namibian, AllAfrica/The Namibian)

Generally dry conditions are expected to continue as Namibia enters its climatological dry season, which typically extends through October.

Water Resources - Tanzania  Nearly all of Tanzania saw another month of poor rains in April, continuing a dry trend that has dominated the second half of the climatological rainy season. Authorities in the capital city of Dar es Salaam have warned its residents that they are facing severe water shortages. Dar es Salaam's main water pumping station resides on the Ruvu River, whose levels have fallen due to lack of rainfall. The drought has also triggered fears of a severe food shortage despite the government's assurance that there is no large-scale problem. The government issued Tanzanian Food Security Bulletin (24 Feb) does indicate the presence of localized food insecurity, however. Some areas of the country have received some rainfall in the past few weeks, but in most cases, it is of little help to the needs of the local farmers. (Xinhua, AllAfrica/Business Times)

Health - Zimbabwe  A government health ministry official has reported that at least 500 people have died of malaria in Zimbabwe so far this year, compared to 300 deaths for all of 2002, according to a 13 May AFP report. Many of the victims were "illicit gold-panners" who were sleeping in the open without any protection from mosquitos. WHO issued a warning for possible malaria outbreaks in April, following the cyclones which affected the country in February and March. (AFP, IFRC)


Fisheries - China  Thousands of valued grouper have been killed by red tide in the Pearl River delta in the province of Guangdong in southeastern China, causing large economic loses to local fish breeders. Algal blooms typically occur when river levels fall, allowing pollution, a food source for the algae, to become more concentrated in the water. Much of southeastern China has been dry for the past few months, and water levels in Xijiang and Beijiang, two of the Pearl River's major contributory areas, have fallen. Red tide harms fish, shellfish, and other water wildlife by producing toxins and consuming oxygen in the water. Water resource managers in the area are concerned that its appearance during the river's normal flood season may indicate that the region is facing a severe drought that will allow the algae bloom to continue. According to a Guangdong water resource official, red tides in flood seasons are often predictors of severe drought in the province later in the year. (Xinhua/ProMed, AFP)

Hazards - Kyrgyzstan,Tajikistan  Heavy rains and snow melt triggered flooding and mud and landslides in western Tajikistan and southwestern Kyrgyzstan. Slides near the Tajik capital of Dushanbe caused one death, affected 200 homes, and killed 500 domestic animals. (AFP) A 5 kilometer strip of land between the Ilyak and Kofernihon Rivers flooded when they burst their banks. Over 100 houses lost their kitchen gardens in the flood, placing residents in a vulnerable position and requiring many of them to accept long-term food assistance. (IRIN) Eleven homes were destroyed and 38 people are missing and assumed dead after a landslide moved through the village of Karatarik in Kyrgyzstan. (IRIN)

Climatologically, western Tajikistan and Krygyzstan receive most of their precipitation between February and May. These types of natural disasters are very common due to the mountainous terrain that dominate the landscape of these countries and aid agencies are trying to improve their preparedness for such events.


Agriculture - Croatia,The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,Yugoslavia  Three months of drought has killed crops in the eastern agricultural regions of Croatia -- total damage is estimated at 29 million dollars, according to the agricultural minister. Three of Croatia's 20 counties have been declared natural disaster areas. Local estimates indicate that about 50 percent of the sugar beet crop will be lost, and wheat harvests will be down by 20 to 30 percent. The director of the Serbia-Montenegro Wheat Foundation has stated that Serbia will have to import wheat this year due to the drought, whereas the country exported 640,000 tons of wheat the previous year. Very low water levels in Dojran Lake in Macedonia are threatening the lake's fish population. (AFP, BBC, DPA)

The latest IRI Seasonal Forecast for June-August 2003 indicates a slightly increased probability of above-normal precipitation for parts of the Balkans, including southern Serbia and Macedonia.

Central America

Health - Guatemala  Higher than normal temperatures and recent rains have contributed to a 30% increase in dengue fever cases in Guatemala over the same period last year. The Guatemalan Ministry of Health has reported 454 suspected dengue cases, one case of dengue hemorrhagic fever, and one death. (Siglo Veintiuno, ProMED)

South America

Hazards - Argentina  Very heavy rainfall during the last half of April has led to severe flooding in the provinces of Santa Fe, Santiago Del Estero, and Entre Rios in northeastern Argentina. As many as 23 deaths had been reported as of May 6th, and various reports estimated that between 50,000 and 160,000 people had been evacuated. Cases of hepatitis and gastro-intestinal diseases have quickly been increasing in number since the flooding began. Flooding along the Salado River has affected large parts of Santa Fe, where roads were cut and electrical service was suspended in some areas. A state of emergency was declared in 35 locations in the province of Santa Fe, which was declared a disaster area on 1 May. President Duhalde also announced a flood emergency aid package of more than $2 million. The USDA reported that the unusually heavy rain that occurred in the province of Entre Rios, and its capital city of Parana in particular, might slow the ongoing corn and soybean harvest, but that record corn yields were expected. (IFRC, OCHA, IFRC, OCHA, BBC, USDA, USDA, USDA)

Health - Brazil  16,944 cases of malaria (_P. faliciparum_) have been reported in the Amazonian capital of Manaus during the first 3 months of 2003, 815 percent higher than the same period last year. Several factors, including heavy rainfall, deforestation and a stop to insecticide spraying, are believed responsible for this the largest malaria outbreak reported in the city. (Folha Online, ProMED)


Health - New Caledonia  A continuing dengue fever outbreak in New Calendonia has affected over 1200 people including 8 fatalities. The outbreak has spread quickly following the heavy rainfall dumped by Cyclone Erica in March. ( Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Energy - New Zealand  Continuing dry weather in parts of New Zealand is threatening the country's hydro-electric generating capacity. According to a Xinhua report in mid-April, six of the country's nine hydro-electric catchments were at less than 35 percent of capacity, and citizens were being urged to reduce their consumption of electricity by 10 to 15 percent. In a 14 May address, New Zealand's finance minister stated that drought and electricity supply problems were affecting business activity. (Dow Jones Business News, Xinhua)

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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