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IRI Climate Digest   October 2002

Climate Impacts - September

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

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Africa - Cape Verde and Mauritania  A poor rainy season in the western Sahel is causing food shortages in Cape Verde and Mauritania. The government of Cape Verde formed an inter-ministerial committee near the beginning of September to deal with the poor harvest that is expected this year as a result of the deficient rainy season (IRIN). In southern Mauritania, the lack of rainfall during the rainy season will likely lead to a cereal deficit of 205,000 metric tons (five month's worth of millet, sorghum, and maize) and has caused large livestock losses. According to FEWS and OCHA reports, at least 60,000 Mauritanians face serious imminent food shortages. On 1st September 2002, the Mauritanian Government declared a state of emergency and issued an appeal for 37,000MT of cereals and 14,000MT of other foods for emergency distribution to meet the needs of people in the most affected areas for three months. The effects are particularly severe in the regions of Hodh el Gharbi, Hodh el Chargui, Gorgol, Assaba, Tagant and Brakna. According to the WFP Regional Director for West Africa, Manuel Aranda da Silva, "some 750,000 of Mauritania's 2.7 million population are already affected by food shortages, with malnutrition now taking on alarming proportions" (IRIN). World Vision workers are reporting that this situation is the worst they have seen in 15 years (World Vision).

Africa - Ethiopia  The government of Ethiopia has raised the estimate of the number of people dependent on food aid to 6 million, up from the previous estimate of 4 million people, and has made appeals for food aid for those in need (Reuters). In addition, the FAO has launched an appeal for additional aid to support six emergency projects aimed at alleviating the plight of drought-affected people (IRIN). Worst case scenarios estimate that 11 to 14 million people will be in need of food aid in 2003 (FEWS, IRIN). In the Afar region, child death rates have begun to increase, while global malnutrition has reached 30% and acute malnutrition has reached 6% (IRIN). According to a BBC report, in eight districts of West Hararghe, malnutrition rates among children are between 15 and 17%, and over 70% of the 1.6 million people there urgently require food aid. Regions in crisis mentioned in the report include the Somali region, Tigray, and Oromia.

Africa - Uganda  A massive crop failure brought about by a long dry spell is causing serious concerns for food security in the Karamoja region of northeastern Uganda, where at least 500,000 people are now at risk. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs (OCHA) reports that Karamoja has experienced up to 90 percent crop failure (IRIN). According to another IRIN report, the government of Uganda issued a national alert in August about the developing El Niņo, warning the public to prepare for above-normal rainfall and to store food for the next season.

The latest IRI seasonal forecast indicates a slightly increased likelihood of above-normal rainfall in Uganda during the period November 2002 to January 2003.

Africa - Southern Africa  Based upon preliminary findings, a report issued by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) on 16 September concluded that 14.4 million people in six countries in Southern Africa, including Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, are threatened by food shortages. The food shortages are partly a result of the drought during the 2001/2002 growing season and previously diminished food stocks due to flood damage to crops the year before. This estimate is up from a 12.8 million estimate made by FAO/WFP in May, 2002. The amount of cereal food aid required to feed the population through April/May 2003 is now estimated at 1 million metric tons, up from an estimate of 880,000 metric tons in May. According to the report, the increase in these estimates is the result both of more complete sampling and worsening conditions. Zimbabwe has both the largest absolute number of people (6.7 million) and fraction of the population (49%) in need of emergency food aid. In Malawi as many as 3.3 million people may be at risk of hunger until April/May 2003 (IRIN). About 25% of the people in the six-country region may ultimately require emergency food aid. Planting for the next cropping season will begin in late October and the degree to which the next crop is successful will have a profound impact on the crisis. However, there is currently a shortage of affordable seeds and fertilizer for planting in some places, such as Zimbabwe (IRIN).

The latest IRI seasonal forecast for November 2002-January 2003 indicates a slightly increased likelihood for below normal precipitation in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, southeastern Botswana, and part of southern Zimbabwe.

Africa - Ethiopia  Drought has had a severe impact on cattle in parts of Ethiopia, especially in the regions of Afar, Tigray, and Amhara. In Afar, the Bureau of Agriculture has reported some 492,435 livestock deaths, though it believes that cattle deaths could be as high as 44.4 percent. Desert-like conditions in other regions (Oromiya and Somali) have caused one in 10 livestock to die. Tens of thousands of cattle carcasses have been destroyed by Oxfam to stop the spread of infections. Livestock deaths cripple the way of life of pastoralists and agro-pastoralists by stripping away all their assets and increasing the period during which they need food handouts. (IRIN, IRIN)

The latest IRI seasonal forecast indicates there is an increased likelihood of above-normal precipitation in southern Somalia, southeastern Ethiopia, and eastern Kenya for November-January 2003.

Africa - Eritrea  Near total failure of the March-June azmera rains and the late onset of the June-September kremti rains has enhanced the drought in Eritrea. Forecasts indicate that the grain harvest this year will be 60% below average and will provide for only 15% of country's food needs, compared to the average of 40-50%. A late-August study by the WFP and FAO indicates that more than 1 million lives are at risk. Emergency food aid will be required at least until the harvest at the end of next year, in order to prevent loss of human life, destitution, liquidation of minimal productive assets and distress migration. (UNWire, FAO, IRIN)

Asia - Thailand  Seasonal flooding brought on by weeks of heavy rain in Thailand has affected 51 of the 76 provinces in the country since mid-September. The flooding has caused an estimated 40 deaths and resulted in some 8 million dollars worth of damage. The Bangkok Post reported that a dyke on the Chi River in Kalasin province collapsed on 29 September flooding 20,000 rai (3200ha) of farmland and inundating 300 houses in three villages. Bank failures have also occurred along the Chao Praya River. The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) has issued warnings about the possible risk of flood-borne diseases. The floods have caused more than 100 deaths in Thailand since August. (Bangkok Post, BBC, BBC)

Europe - Russia  An avalanche tore through the village of Karmodon in the Republic of Northern Ossetia-Alania on 20 September. Experts said the avalanche could be blamed on humid, rainy weather over the summer that produced more water , and thus ice, on the Kolka glacier. This, in combination with the recent anomalously warm weather caused a large part of the glacier to break off. It was estimated that the resulting avalanche and mudslide contained 24 million tons of ice. Twelve people were killed, 27 were rescued, and 99 remain missing.


Africa - Zimbabwe  Current drought conditions in Zimbabwe are believed to be worsening a cholera outbreak there. Over 350 new cholera cases have been reported since the beginning of August, including 10 deaths. Poor sanitation and a health workers' strike are exacerbating the situation. (IRIN, IRIN)

Asia - Malaysia  A dengue alert was issued in the four Malaysian states of Selangor, Perak, Kelantan, and Johor, as well as the Federal Territory, due to the 142 percent increase in dengue cases since January 2002, compared to the same period in 2001. There have been over 17,000 cases, including 34 deaths this year. A recent period of wet weather followed by a short dry spell are thought to have contributed to the rise in cases. (ProMED)

Asia - Taiwan  There have been over 2500 cases of dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever reported in Taiwan, the most since 1988. Recent rainy conditions have helped create ideal breeding grounds for the dengue-carrying mosquitoes. (ProMED, ProMED)

Europe - Austria  A case of leptospirosis has occurred in upper Austria due to the recent flooding in that region. Outbreaks of the bacterial disease leptospirosis are often associated with flooding, hurricanes and tropical storms and the resulting increase in contact with contaminated water. (ProMED)


Asia - Mongolia  The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) reported that 70 percent of Mongolia is suffering the effects of a drought. Dry conditions over the summer, combined with high temperatures, have negatively affected crop production and grass availability and caused approximately 200 forest fires. Three years of droughts and harsh winters have resulted in the death of 6 million livestock, meat and fuel deficits, inflated meat prices that most can not afford, and rapid rural depopulation as thousands of herders are no longer able to cope. The Prime Minister of Mongolia has encouraged herders to immediately slaughter and sell their underweight animals due to fears of another harsh winter. The Mongolian government is also reportedly spending US$1 million to buy hay, relocate herders to better land, and to restore wells. (IFRC, IFRC, World Vision)

Asia - Cambodia  Drought conditions and flooding along the Mekong River have decreased crop production and delayed planting of some crops in Cambodia. As of 19 September, only 64 percent of the normal amount of rice had been planted. Over 650,000 people are facing food shortages due to the drought that started as early as January 2002 in some places. In early August, the National Committee for Natural Disasters called the drought the worst in two decades.

Seasonal flooding along the Mekong River continued to affect the provinces of Stung Treng, Kratie, Kampong Cham, Kandal, and Prey Veng in September. Disaster management officials have estimated that 1,470,000 people have been affected and 29 have died in the flooding. The combination of flood and drought may cause food shortages into next year. (World Vision, OCHA)

Asia - Uzbekistan  Ample rain is being hailed as the major factor behind a bumper crop in Uzbekistan. According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the country is likely to harvest an unprecedented 5.3 million mt of cereals in 2002, which is some 1.4 million mt higher than last year's harvest. Improved access to inputs also played an important role in the successful harvest. Uzbekistan, like its other Central Asian neighbours, had been in the grip of a drought for three years, forcing the government to rely on substantial imports of basic foods. This harvest has brought the Uzbek government close to its target of achieving self-sufficiency in food. (IRIN, FAO)

Australia - Australia  Drought conditions continued to affect Australia. Prime Minister John Howard warned that Australia's trade deficit could increase as a result of the drought and suggested that it might be time to consider piping irrigation water throughout the country, instead of using the current system of open canals, in order to conserve water. The drought has also persuaded the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics to reduce its crops production estimates for this year by 40 percent and has been particularly damaging to the export crops, such as wheat. Many farmers have been forced to sell livestock earlier than usual, meaning that there is likely to be a much smaller number of animals for sale next season.

The IRI seasonal forecast indicates an increased likelihood of below-normal precipitation in parts of Australia for the the coming three months.

North America - United States  The drought across the grain belt is greatly affecting the corn, soybean, cotton, and wheat harvest. The most affected areas include the Plains states from Montana to Texas and parts of the Midwest. If the current forecast by the Department of Agriculture proves accurate, it would be the smallest corn crop since 1995, the smallest soybean crop since 1996, and the smallest wheat crop since 1972. The USDA opened conservation lands throughout the nation to ranchers and farmers as a result of drought. The land was made available to allow for the harvest of hay or to allow cattle to graze.

Public policy and politics have been affected as well. The Bush administration released $752 million in aid to livestock farmers in drought affected areas of the country and the Senate approved a $6 billion drought aid package for farmers over objections of the Bush administration. (Reuters, AP)

The IRI seasonal forecast indicates an increased probability of abnormally dry conditions in parts of the Midwest for the coming three months.


Oceania - Papua New Guinea  The Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) reported that the drought effects associated with El Niño have prompted provinces in the Highlands regions to adopt water conservation measures. Power cuts occurred in the National Capital District as water rationing affected hydro-electricity facilities.

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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