East African Drought Crisis..

28 April, 2022 | Gabrielle Namadoa
Categories: Climate Change, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sustainable Development Goals

The East African region is set to face its worst drought period since 1981 and the countries that will be mainly affected are Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. A drought is when lower-than-normal rainfall extends across multiple rainy seasons or years. The expected impacts of the drought include:

– 13 million people to face food insecurity
– Up to 20 million will face starvation
– Over 3 million livestock and wildlife to die
-5.7 million children from Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are expected to be acutely malnourished by the end of 2022.
– More crops drying up and harvests are expected to be much lower than normal.
– Millions will be displaced and increase of forced migration

Sources: BBC News Africa, December 2021 / Landscape news, April 2022 / WFP, April 2022.

These impacts often lead to a domino effect on the populations people because most the population in the region are pastoralist and farmers.

In as much as this is set to be the worst drought in recent history, the region is no stranger to drought periods as droughts are part of the regions natural weather cycle. However, the frequency and intensity of droughts has increased over the past 10 years due the effects of climate change coupled with other socio-economic and political factors. Naturally, one would assume that the regional governments would have implemented preventative and adaptive measures for their citizens to better cope. However, this has not been the case. There are several reasons why, but this blog post will be focusing on the issue of carbon blindness in country’s environmental agendas.

Just like countries across the globe, East African countries have increased their focus and resources towards climate change mitigation and adaptation. Consequently, a substantial part of their environmental agendas have shifted towards reducing GHG emissions and sustainability. This is all well and good, but this only focuses on climate mainly on a global scale and disregards the severity of the local climate issues and vulnerabilities. Action on climate change needs an inter-connected response because you can’t ‘solve’ climate change without addressing social issues and vulnerabilities.  

There are periods in time when the focus is on one issue (more strongly) and kind of loose focus of the big picture thereby “forgetting” that all these issues are interconnected. In this case, the East African governments more strongly focused on reducing emissions as their way of tackling climate change and in the midst, neglected other effects of climate change and the socio-economic wellbeing of their populations that are directly affected by these effects. Especially on the local level.  

Whilst tackling climate change, issues that directly impact the well-being of the people should be treated as seriously as carbon and emissions issues are. Issues such as food security, agriculture, poverty, water crises, health and sanitation, inequality, vulnerabilities, wildlife and biodiversity conservation, resource scarcity etc.  The well-being of people and safeguarding of biodiversity is often overshadowed by ‘successful’ climate change mitigation plans. We achieve carbon and emission targets yet overlook human rights and well-being.. Climate change encompasses much more than just carbon and emissions. We live within interconnected systems and need a more expansive perspective of ecosystems. A whole system approach is needed, not only calculations – interconnectedness between nature and all aspects of human life should be always part of the equation… even if sometimes difficult to quantify.  

Source of image: Tina Nybo Jensen, GRI 2021.

The pendulum swings both ways, of course. There also can’t be too much of an emphasis on social impacts to the point of neglecting the carbon and emissions impacts. Therein lies the complexity and is one of the reasons why the holistic nature of the SDGs is useful. Not only do the SDGs holistically address environmental and social issues, they can also be contextualised to address both global and local issues. Context beyond carbon emissions is essential to delivering projects that may be exclusively focused on sequestering carbon and reducing GHG emissions.  It is becoming more paramount for climate change initiatives and projects to be more integrative of human rights and social impacts.