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New drought in Ethiopia puts recovery at risk (downtoearth)

New drought across swathes of southern Ethiopia is likely to jeopardise the country’s restoration of food security after the worst agricultural seasons in decades, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

While humanitarian efforts have sharply reduced the number of hungry during the worst drought in 50 years, the legacy of last year’s El Niño, along with low rainfall during a critical season, poses renewed risks, especially for pastoral communities. These communities face forage shortfalls and water scarcity in southern regions. (view video)

Effective and timely action has reduced the number of people who will need food aid in 2017 to 5.6 million, down from almost twice as much last August, according to the newly released Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD). However, food security in 120 districts has worsened since July, while 86 districts are entering their third year (since December 2015) of top-priority emergency status.

While northern and western Ethiopia bore the brunt of El Niño, a new drought is emerging in southern and southeastern pastoral areas, including Oromia, Somali and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region after poor, delayed and erratic rains curbed pasture and water availability. Some 80 per cent of Ethiopians depend on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods and an even higher share of the country’s arable land relies on seasonal rainfall.

Below-average precipitation has also affected Somalia and Kenya. The impact is expected to be dire in early 2017 among livestock, with unusually early migrations, excess mortality rates and extreme emaciation.

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