By Daniel Wesangula
NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Climate change is making drought and humanitarian disasters worse in the Horn of Africa, Oxfam said on Thursday, ahead of a major climate march in Washington to coincide with the first 100 days of the Trump administration.
About 12 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are at risk of hunger due to recurring droughts, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says, with Somalia at risk of slipping into famine for the second time in six years.
“Climate change is a real and current problem in East Africa. What were previously once in a life time droughts now come around more often,” Nigel Tricks, Oxfam’s regional director told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“For the first time, scores of camels and donkeys which are typically hardy animals are dying off and the lives of pastoralists, which revolve around their animals have been greatly disrupted.”
Thousands are expected to attend the People’s Climate March in Washington on Saturday, which hopes to match the success of a 300,000-strong rally in New York in 2014, the largest single protest ever held on the topic of climate change.
President Donald Trump last month signed an order to undo Obama-era climate change regulations, keeping a campaign promise to support the coal industry and calling into question U.S. support for an international deal to fight global warming.
A small group of activists in the Kenyan coastal town of Kilifi will take part in a sister march, along with others in Australia, Brazil, Greece, Ivory Coast, Uganda and Zambia.
East Africa is experiencing its third year of very low rainfall, coupled with above average temperatures, which are part of a trend that began in the 1980s, Oxfam said.
Seven of the last ten years have seen chronic droughts in East Africa due to poor or failed rains, it said
“The march is to fight for our environment by creating more awareness on conservation,” Noel Baraka, director of Kilifi-based Kenya Action Network, which campaigns on climate change, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
People are hungry and cattle are dying in Kilifi due to drought, he said, which started to bite last year.
Eastern and southern Africa were hard hit in 2016 by drought exacerbated by El Nino – a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean – that wilted crops, slowed economic growth and drove food prices higher.
“There is nothing here,” Oxfam quoted Jama, an Ethiopian pastoralist, who has lost almost 700 sheep and goats, as saying.
“Even my parents did not tell stories of droughts like this.”
(Reporting by Daniel Wesangula; Editing by Katy Migiro and Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.)