A drought is a long period of dry weather, when no rain falls for weeks, months or even years. Many parts of the world expect drought every year. These are places which have dry season and a wet season. Typically people plan for the drought by storing water and by growing crops that can withstand the dry weather.
The effect drought has on the soil
No one knows for certain why droughts happen. They could be affected by ocean currents, by how moist the soil is, or by the shape of the land. Often when a drought does finally end, there is severe storm and heavy rain. Water rushes over the hard dry surface, washing away the top soil. This makes it even more difficult to grow grass or crops in the future.
The effect of droughts and where they occur
One of the effects of droughts is dryness and lack of water. They are most commonly known to be in Africa. Lack of water means less irrigation for the crops, less drinking water, and less water for hygiene. In developing countries droughts cause disease, famine, and death.
The many effects of drought can be listed as economic, environmental, or social. However, not all impacts of drought are negative. Fortunate agricultural producers located outside the drought area benefit by selling their goods at higher prices.
Drought is also associated with increases in insect infestations, plant disease, and wind erosion. Droughts may cause problems with insects and diseases to forests. Forest fires increase dramatically during periods of droughts
Other drought-related impacts include social impacts. Social impacts include health, public safety, conflicts between water users, and reduced quality of life. Such is the case with the East African drought of 2011.
A large drought occurred during the months of June and July across Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti in eastern Africa. Somalia was one of the hardest hit areas, and food and water became extremely scarce in the area. The United Nations declared parts of southern Somalia to be official famine zones. During the summer, nearly three million Somalis were in need of medical assistance. It is estimated that nearly 30,000 children died due to famine.
Delivery of aid was extremely scarce in the area due to the activities by an Islamic militant group called the al-Shabaab. This same group is probably responsible for many other deaths because they had also prevented people from leaving the famine zones.
East Africa was in the midst of its worst drought in more than 60 years, with as many as 10 million people at risk. The drought led to crop failures and food shortages in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia, and a refugee crisis loomed as people left their homes to escape hunger. The U.N. said thousands of Somalis left their country, ending up in parched and overcrowded refugee camps. There were nearly 380,000 people living in Dadaab in Kenya making it the world's largest refugee camp, intended for 90,000 people. The situation in Somalia in particular was the "worst humanitarian disaster in the world," the U.N. refugee agency said, and child deaths at refugee camps spiked to three times average emergency levels.
The drought cost farmers their crop yield, causing the loss of valuable livestock and driven prices of food in the markets to an unattainable level. Poor rains in the previous two rainy seasons led to severe drought across large parts of the Horn of Africa in early 2011, leaving over 13 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
Weather conditions over the Pacific, including an unusually strong La Niña, have interrupted seasonal rains for two consecutive seasons. The rains failed in 2011 in Kenya and Ethiopia and for the previous two years in Somalia. In many areas, the precipitation rate during the main rainy season from April to June, the primary season, was less than 30% of the average of 1995–2010. The lack of rain led to crop failure and widespread loss of livestock.
Beginning in mid-July 2011, a severe drought affected the entire East Africa region. Said to be "the worst in 60 years", the drought caused a severe food crisis across Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya that threatened the livelihood of approximately 10 million people. Many refugees from southern Somalia have fled to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, where crowded, unsanitary conditions together with severe malnutrition led to a large number of deaths. Other countries in East Africa, including Sudan, South Sudan and parts of Uganda, were also affected by a food crisis.
On 20 July, the United Nations officially declared famine in two regions in the southern part of the country, the first time a famine has been declared by the UN in nearly thirty years. Tens of thousands of people are believed to have died in southern Somalia before famine was declared.
A girl stands amid the graves of 70 children on the outskirts of Dadaab. The long desert journey to the relief camps claimed many lives.
Although fighting disrupted aid delivery in some areas, a scaling up of relief operations in mid-November had unexpectedly significantly reduced malnutrition and mortality rates in southern Somalia, prompting the UN to downgrade the humanitarian situation in the Bay, Bakool and Lower Shabele regions from famine to emergency levels.
By February 2012, several thousand people had also begun returning to their homes and farms. In addition, humanitarian access to rebel-controlled areas had improved and rainfall had surpassed expectations, improving the prospects of a good harvest in early 2012.With the exception of some coastal areas, the abundant rainfall in most parts of central and northern Somalia has replenished pastureland and also further boosted the purchasing power of local herders.
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