By Sora Halake
Forecasters are warning that Ethiopia could face more rainfall deficits, deepening a drought that has left nearly eight million of the country’s people in need of aid.
Dr. Chris Funk is a climate scientist at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) whose research focuses on African and Asian countries. He told VOA’s Horn of Africa Service that there is a 50 percent chance another El Nino weather event could form in the Pacific Ocean this year.
“If it’s a moderate or strong El Nino, that would definitely tilt towards odd, below normal rain for northern Ethiopia,” he said. “That is what happened unfortunately in 2015, when we had a strong El Nino that reduced rains in northern and central Ethiopia and we are concerned about that possibility.”
Ethiopia tends to receive its heaviest rain between mid-June and mid-September, especially in the north.
The moderate rainy season that runs from February to May was disappointing, said Dula Shanko, deputy director for the Ethiopian meteorological department.
“March rain was very poor for areas that get rain [in] this time,” he said. “In April and May it shows little progress but not enough.”
He added that rain was sparse in the southern regions of Somali and Oromia.
Out of 7.78 million Ethiopians in need of food assistance, 3.6 million are in Oromia.
Lower than normal rains in 2015 and 2016 contributed to the ongoing food crisis by killing livestock and reducing farm output. The drought has forced farmers and pastoralists to search for water, pushing students to drop out of school in some areas.