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15 July 2011

Africa Update #38: Emergency looms in Nigeria and both Sudans

A major emergency is possibly building in Nigeria and Sudan and newly independent (as of yesterday) South Sudan if rainfall does not stabilize across these regions. Looking over a wider area, more moisture is still needed in western Niger, Burkina Faso, much of Chad, and the Central African Republic. Off to the west rainfall remains plentiful; and in Ethiopia, despite a couple of weeks of poor precipitation, rainfall remains well distributed.

Lets start with the bad. Rainfall has been suppressed for much of the season so far across Nigeria, Cameroon and Sudan, including South Sudan. The poor rainfall is likely affecting crops, pasture and drinking water availability in the northern regions of Nigeria and across much of Sudan. Southern Nigeria, Cameroon and South Sudan are somewhat less affected due to their high rainfall climatology, however the inconsistency of rainfall may be having implications for drinking water in these areas. Darfur, now the largest minority area of Sudan, has been hit particularly hard by the poor rainfall.

Niger, Burkina Faso much of Chad, and the Central African Republic have also had dry stretches during the wet season. These areas are doing somewhat better, and agriculture production has not suffered widespread problems, but that could change if more dry spells occur, especially if those dry periods occur during sensitive times of crop development. Pasture and drinking water should be at near normal levels across these regions.

Moisture has been slow to push into Senegal, including the Groundnut Basin, the Gambia and southern parts of Mauritania. Poor conditions here could quickly escalate into a larger problem, as the wet season is very short across this region, lasting only July and August. There are some observations of season-long dryness in these areas that will require closer monitoring.

Ethiopia's rainfall has been generally good this season, although lately it has become somewhat fickle. Precipitation shut down two weeks ago, a period when, climatologically, it should have cranked out some of the heaviest rainfall of the year across the highland areas, especially Amhara and Tigray. Afar, a low land area just to the east, should have also been hit with heavy rainfall. Instead forecast models show the heavy rains arriving late, but during the next week.

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