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Marching for the climate: The death of pack animals reiterates the dire situation caused by drought in East Africa

As the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa worsens due to the extremely low levels of rainfall experienced in the region, the latest development with pack animals underscores the degree to which the adverse effects of climate change are being felt there. According to Oxfam, donkeys and camels are dying off for the first time since the drought hit East Africa in 2011.

Donkeys and camels are naturally built to endure difficult conditions for extended periods of time, thus composing a crucial part of pastoralism and agriculture as a whole. Because of their advantages, a region suffering from food insecurity such as the Horn of Africa benefits from their presence for feeding and labour.

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Thousands of animals including cows, goats, and sheep have already been lost to the drought in the East African region in the past seven years. However, the present tragedy with pack animals deals an even deadlier blow to the activities of those struggling to find ways to survive the drought.

Oxfam’s Regional Director, Nigel Tricks attributes the tragedy to the increased recurrence of the droughts in East Africa. The organisation reports that the region is experiencing its third consecutive year of low rainfall, in addition to the increase levels of temperature which began in the 1980s. For the second time in six years, Somalia is at a risk of famine, and 12 million people in the country, as well Ethiopia and Kenya are faced with the risk of hunger.

Due to the frequency and severity of the droughts in the Horn of Africa, as well as other visible impacts brought on by climate change, the United Nations launched its cross-border drought action plan for 2017 last month. The action plan aims to safeguard livestock-based livelihoods in pastoralist and agropastoralist communities in Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, and South Sudan, between March and June of 2017.

Also the People’s Climate March scheduled for April 29 in Washington DC is motivated by the life-threatening conditions in the Horn of Africa as well as the various unpleasant effects of climate change all over the continent. This year’s march hopes to successfully draw attention to the region and raise awareness about conserving the environment. The march coincides with the commemoration of the United States’ President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office.

Although the terminal threat to animals caused by the drought in East Africa is harrowing, humans are also obviously also at risk. In 2011, the lives of about 250,000 Somalians were lost to famine, after a period of inaction following the announcement of a crisis. The hope is that, this time around, such a crisis can be avoided in the region.

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