By Christine Lagat NAIROBI, (Xinhua) --
Countries in East Africa in conjunction with their multilateral
partners must invest in vibrant early warning systems to enhance
their response to recurrent droughts, a senior UN environment
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive
Director Ibrahim Thiaw also blamed climate change for the current
drought that poses new threats to regional stability, peace and
“Droughts have always existed in this part of the world and what is
new is their frequency and severity. Countries must build strong
early warning systems to boost their preparedness to drought,” Thiaw
told Xinhua in an interview in Nairobi on Wednesday.
The UNEP contends that an estimated 17 million people are staring at
starvation in the East and Horn of Africa region due to a prolonged
dry spell that escalated early this year.
“Both East Africa and the Sahel region are vulnerable to climate
change impacts like floods and droughts. It is difficult to predict
them and their damage to the economy is huge,” Thiaw said.
He underscored the role of climate resilient farming systems to
cushion East African communities from hunger and malnutrition.
“We can put in place systems to alert farmers on impending droughts
in order to enhance their preparedness and reduce damage,” said
Thiaw, adding that policy reforms are key to strengthening climate
resilience in the eastern Africa region.
The Eastern African region must brace itself for ecological, health
and economic devastation occasioned by rising temperatures.
Thiaw stressed that a pragmatic approach is required to minimize
impacts of droughts in a region where vast majority of people depend
on nature based assets to survive.
“If people are aware of looming droughts, they will take mitigation
measures,” Thiaw remarked, adding timely alerts will enable
communities and humanitarian agencies to respond better to famine
UNEP has championed adoption of new innovations revolving around
weather prediction, green farming and clean energy to strengthen
resilience of local communities in the eastern African region in the
face of climate change.
Thiaw urged governments in the region to invest in climate resilient
infrastructure and industries to prevent losses that are linked to
severe droughts and flooding.
“We need to ask ourselves what kind of roads and ports that we can
build in the light of sea level rise,” said Thiaw, adding that
climate resilient cities will withstand challenges like flooding and
spread of communicable diseases.
Thiaw noted that China has technology and expertise that countries
in the region can harness to enhance their drought responses.
He singled out Chinese expertise in reclamation of deserts alongside
satellite technology as areas that East African nations could tap
and boost their capacity to respond to droughts.