Spring rains in the eastern Horn of Africa are projected to begin late and be substantially lower than normal, according to projections from the Famine Early Warning Sytems Network, which monitors high-risk areas of the developing world with the most food insecurity and identifies critical situations in which food aid will be needed.

From March through May, the rains are expected to total only 60 to 85 percent of the average rainfall in the region, a significant deterioration compared to earlier forecasts, said the U.S. Geological Survey. Lower rain amounts would have significant impacts on crop production, rangeland regeneration for livestock and replenishment of water resources. “The concerning picture that emerged from [the warning system network] climate monitoring services was that despite the good rains of the past winter, the situation east Africa has deteriorated very rapidly, to a point that the water deficits and vegetation health looked as bad as this time last year,” said U.S. Geological Survey scientist Chris Funk, who led the research. 

The resulting strain on resources would put greater stress on the region, particularly Somalia which is still recovering from a 2011 famine, as well as Kenya and Ethiopia which also experienced a severe food crisis, said the U.S. Geological Survey. An increase in food insecurity and in the size of the food insecure population is likely.