NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The children walk among carcasses of animals dead from hunger and exhaustion, a stark image of the drought threatening millions of people in the Horn of Africa.
Somalia, Kenya, and now Ethiopia have raised the alarm about the latest climate shock to a fragile region traversed by herders and others trying to keep their animals, and themselves, alive.
In Ethiopia’s Somali region, people have seen the failures of what should have been three straight rainy seasons. Droughts come and go over the years, but resident Zaynab Wali told a visiting team with the United Nations children’s agency that she and her seven children have never seen one like this.
The government distributed food and fodder during the last drought five years ago, she said. This time, “we don’t have enough food for our family.”
More than 6 million people in Ethiopia are expected to need urgent humanitarian aid by mid-March, UNICEF said Tuesday. And in neighboring Somalia more than 7 million people need urgent help, the Somali NGO Consortium said in a separate statement, pleading with international donors to give much more.
“We are just one month into the long dry season, and I have already lost 25 goats and sheep,” Hafsa Bedel in Ethiopia’s Somali region told UNICEF. “I also lost four camels. There is no pasture.” There is not enough food for her own family, including her six children, she said.
UNICEF estimates that more than 150,000 children in such areas of Ethiopia have dropped out of school to help fetch scarce water and handle other chores.
One young boy supported a donkey, once crucial for carrying cargo, that had become too weak to walk on its own.
“We have animals dying at an impressive rate, which is increasing every month, and the death of animals means lack of food for children, for families,” Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF’s Ethiopia representative, told a U.N. briefing in Geneva by videoconference on Tuesday.
He said some water sources were drying up or already dry, and pointed to the need to rehabilitate wells, drill boreholes and get water to health and nutrition systems.
Rotigliano said the Ethiopian government’s conflict with fighters from the country’s northern Tigray region has had no impact on UNICEF’s response to the drought-stricken areas hundreds of kilometers (miles) to the southeast.
Heavy gunfire erupted Tuesday near the Government Palace in Guinea-Bissau’s capital, witnesses said, raising fears of a coup attempt in this West African country with a long history of military takeovers.
The state broadcaster has reported that the shooting has damaged the government building and that “invaders” are holding officials.
President Umaro Cissoko Embalo, a former army general, was believed to be inside the building at the time of the attack.
The 15-nation West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS, already grappling with three other coups in member states over the last 18 months, called Tuesday’s violence a coup attempt and said it is following the situation in Bissau “with great concern.”
“ECOWAS condemns this coup attempt and holds the military responsible for the bodily integrity of President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and the members of his government,” the statement said in a tweet.
Embalo was declared the winner of the December 2019 runoff vote, though the results were contested by his opponent, Domingos Simoes Pereira. Embalo then started forming a new government with support from the military while a Supreme Court election challenge was still pending.
Since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974, Guinea-Bissau has experienced four coup d’etats and more than a dozen attempted coups.
The small nation of around 1.5 million people, has long been beset by corruption and drug trafficking. In the 2000s, it became known as a transit point for cocaine between Latin America and Europe as traffickers profited from corruption and weak law enforcement.
West Africa has seen a spate of coups since August 2020, with military juntas grabbing power in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. Despite international pressure for a return to constitutional rule, none of the military rulers have yet to organize new elections.
Forecasts say Tropical Cyclone Batsirai is increasing in intensity and is expected to pass north of the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius on Wednesday evening and make landfall in central Madagascar on Saturday afternoon.
The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System says Batsirai has been upgraded and classified as Category 4. The system, a joint United Nations and the European Union Commission project, says the cyclone’s wind speed had increased to 231 kilometers per hour on Wednesday morning.
Madagascar’s meteorology directorate has warned seafarers and issued cyclone alerts in 16 districts projected to be in the storm’s path.
The GDACS forecasts that the cyclone has the potential to intensify in the next 48 hours, posing serious threats to Mauritius, Madagascar and the French overseas department of Reunion.
Southern Africa has anguished memories of the 2019 Cyclone Idai, which left a trail of destruction and deaths in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
The World Meteorological Organization late last year warned that Africa would face challenges including intense cyclones in the coming decades, noting that “the rates of sea level rise along the tropical and south Atlantic coasts and Indian Ocean are higher than the global mean rate.”
The WMO says the 2022 cyclone season in the Indian Ocean is expected to end in April with the exception of the Seychelles and Mauritius, where it is expected to end in May.