afrol News: Eritrean govt sends out drought alert

Eritrean govt sends out drought alert

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afrol News, 24 July - According to an alert released by the Eritran government, the country is facing "an exceptionally severe and prolonged drought that is threatening the survival of people and animals." Now as the planting season is coming almost to an end, significant rains still have failed to come.

- The early rains expected in April-May had completely failed gravely undermining agricultural activities and vegetation growth, according to a statement by the Eritrean government agency Relief and Refugee Commission (ERREC), published today. "This has been followed by an unprecedented dry spell during the prime planting months of June and July." As a result, a humanitarian emergency that wouls have serious consequences was unfolding, "unless urgent preventive measures are taken by the international community."

Eritrea has two rainy seasons, namely the 'Azmera' or spring rains and the 'Kremti' which is the main agricultural season. During March, some isolated rains favourable for planting the long cycle crops fell over Debub and Maekel zones and the eastern escarpments. This had "induced farmers to plant long cycle crops, such as millet, maize and sorghum, that take about six months to reach maturity. However, the March rains were followed by a dry period in April and May that established the failure of the Azmera season," ERREC says.

The Azmera season is not only important for the growth of the long cycle crops, but also for the pasture that provides fodder and water for livestock. Consequently, the failure of the Azmera season has undermined the health of livestock. Thus, a good Azmera season with ample rainfall is a major source of extra feed and water for the livestock. Since Eritrea does not have perennial rivers, rains during the Azmera season help to fill ponds and dams.

With the exception of scanty scattered showers in very few isolated localities, the dry and hot spell had continued into June and July, accompanied by haze and dust that have persisted to date across the country. This had prevented the planting of the major short cycle crops, such as wheat, barley, oil seeds and legumes. Those crops that were sown in the dry soil had failed to germinate, as has the growth of grass and other vegetation.

- Now that the planting season is coming almost to an end, without farmers planting the long duration crops, Eritrea expects to reap virtually little crop harvest from this agricultural year, ERREC fears. "The entirety of Eritrea's farming population will thus face the threat of a serious famine disaster."

The drought was occurring at "a critical time" when the country had been struggling to recover from the protracted emergency that was caused by the border conflict with Ethiopia and the drought that persisted during the past four successive years. "Already, over one million people are suffering from acute shortages of food, water and other non-food basic needs," the statement says.

The Eritrean government, "hereby alerts the International Community to a looming humanitarian crisis, and appeals for an urgent response to avert impending human catastrophe," the statement reads.

Sources: Based on Eritrean govt and afrol archives

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