By Faith Atieno

In a move to give the East African countries access to risk information, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Climate Prediction and Application Centre (ICPAC) has launched the East Africa Drought Watch, a regional specialized system to monitor drought.

According to ICPAC, the system is a near-real-time system with a simple interface that uses Earth Observation and Weather information to monitor drought conditions in the region.

ICPAC, stated that the system contains tools that allow users to generate automated reports for multiple indicators for any geographical area of their choice from various data sources such as precipitation measurements and soil moisture content.

Besides, it permits one to assess the drought situation and the risk that the current conditions pose to livelihoods thereby giving an overview of the situation in case of imminent droughts through different tools like graphs that display and analyse the information

ICPAC mentioned that the system has inbuilt Open Source technologies- source codes that are freely available to use, modify, and redistribute, offers opportunities for scalability, flexibility, transparency and sustainability.

Having been made up of 60 percent of arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) according to statistics, East Africa is prone to frequent and severe drought which remains to be a recurrent problem to its inhabitants.

For example in Kenya, the climate-caused drought has been increasing with time, 2021 being the recent due to  failures of both the 2020 short rains (Oct-Dec) and the 2021 long rains (March-May) in some counties.

The country has been repeatedly hit by drought with time for rebuilding becoming shorter every year-from every ten years, to every five years, further down to every 2-3 years, and currently every year we experience some dry spell.

Currently, according to the 2021 Long Rains Assessment (LRA) Food and Nutritional security report, about 2.1 million Kenyans face starvation due to a drought in half the country.

Climate Change makes the people vulnerable to some of the worst drought caused humanitarian crisis such as persistent food and nutrition insecurity, displacement which in turn leads to conflict among people and even wildlife as well as economic hardships.

Therefore, an early drought warning system such as the East Africa Drought Watch, will increase the coping capacity and the resilience of the population to the increasing climate extremes.

This launch follows that in July of East Africa Hazards Watch, a one-stop shop for risk information in the region. ICPAC says that even as climate extremes continue to intensify, they are determined to give the best risk information to reduce the impacts of climate change in the East African region.