USGS scientists, in partnership with USAID, developed forecasts of drought conditions and supported the United Nations famine declaration for southern Somalia. Parts of eastern Africa, including Somalia, experienced two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall, resulting in the worst drought in 60 years. Crops failed, livestock deaths were widespread, and food prices were high. While the depth of the crisis outstripped the capacity of the humanitarian response, USGS support to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) helped mitigate severe malnutrition and mortality. Sponsored by the USAID Office of Food for Peace, FEWS NET identified instances where food aid was required by those whose livelihoods are tied to subsistence rainfed agriculture and pastoralism. Ground station networks are sparse in developing countries so FEWS NET relies upon satellite remote sensing of vegetation and rainfall. New products such as the “expedited” MODIS and NDVI enhance the capability to identify drought and populations at-risk. FEWS NET partners include USAID, USGS, NASA, NOAA, USDA, and Chemonics International who has been implementing field activities for FEWS NET since 2000.
Graphic illustrates 2010/2011 rainfall compared to historical totals (since 1950/1951) in select pastoral areas of Kenya and Ethiopia (analysis by U.S. Geological Survey’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network).