East African bloc unveils new tool to improve drought monitoring

NAIROBI, Nairobi | Xinhua | The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African bloc, on Wednesday launched a new tool to improve monitoring and response to climate change-induced droughts.

Dubbed the “Enhanced East African Drought Watch,” the innovative tool is expected to revolutionize drought forecasting in the region and enable timely interventions to avert humanitarian crises, officials said during its virtual launch in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

Jason Kinyua, the data and geographic information system developer at the IGAD-affiliated Climate Prediction and Applications Center (ICPAC), said the new drought monitoring tool will enable policymakers and local communities in the region to better prepare for adverse impacts such as water stress and food insecurity.

“The tool has enhanced features to help predict impending droughts in the region. It is user-friendly and can generate data needed to inform responses to dry seasons and their negative impacts on livelihoods,” said Kinyua.

He noted that the Horn of Africa region will benefit from the timely prediction of recurrent droughts, which have exacerbated hunger, malnutrition, conflict, and displacement of civilians.

Viola Otieno, an expert with the African Union, said droughts have become a regular phenomenon in the region, requiring the application of innovations that can provide accurate forecasts.

Otieno stressed that regional cooperation will be key to facilitating the deployment of enhanced drought monitoring tools, given the transboundary nature of the phenomenon.

She called for robust South-South cooperation in the research, development, and application of new drought monitoring tools in key sectors such as agriculture, livestock, forestry, health, and wildlife.

Ahmed Sulaiman, a food security analyst at ICPAC, noted that the launch of a new drought monitoring tool will better prepare governments in the IGAD region to avert negative impacts such as massive crop failures.

Sulaiman added that the enhanced drought monitoring tool will also help local farmers adjust planting seasons, improve nomadic pasture management, and support long-term climate change mitigation and adaptation. ■

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