Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Deadliest weather disaster of 2011: the East African drought

The deadliest storm of 2011 is Tropical Storm Washi, which is now being blamed for 957 deaths in the Philippines. Washi's heavy rains triggered devastating flash flooding on the island of Mindanao last Friday. However, the deadliest weather disaster of 2011 is a quiet one that has gotten few headlines--the East African drought in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. On July 20, the United Nations officially declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia, the first time a famine has been declared by the UN in nearly thirty years. Almost 30,000 children under the age of five were believed to have died of malnutrition in Somalia this summer, and the total death toll of this great drought is doubtless much higher. At least thirteen million people in East Africa are in need of food aid. However, conditions are improving. Food aid has lifted three of six provinces in Somalia out of famine. The "short rains" of the October - November rainy season were plentiful this year--too much so, since heavy rains killed 15 people in Kenya and left 80,000 homeless in early December. The flooding was worsened by the preceding drought, which killed much of the vegetation that ordinarily would have stabilized the soil and absorbed rainwater before it could run off and create destructive floods. The rains have allowed a good harvest to be planted this fall, and with continued food aid, the Somalia famine should ease by spring 2012. ReliefWeb reports that in the three Somalian provinces still experiencing famine, nearly 250,000 people face imminent starvation, though.


Weather Underground has partnered with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to help the Horn of Africa region during the ongoing famine. With the help of the Weather Underground community, we hope to raise $10,000 that will go toward helping the refugees survive the crisis. Weather Underground will match the community's donation dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000 for a total donation of $20,000. Please visit the East Africa famine donation page to help out. Ninety cents of every dollar donated goes directly to the people in need.


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