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NASA satellite image reveals extent of drought in East Africa

A new image from NASA shows the severity of the drought in East Africa, which impacted Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

Three failed rains in a row brought the region to its knees: four million people were reported to be going hungry in Kenya alone; lakes and rivers dried up entirely; withered crops drove farmers into slums; wildlife, from elephants to hippos, perished; there were even reports of camels dying.

Northwest Kenya, as shown in the image, was hit the hardest. This area is home largely to pastoralist tribes, such as the Turkana, who lost livestock by the thousands.

“The livestock still hasn’t recovered from the 2005 drought. And already we have to confront a new drought. The drought cycle is getting shorter and shorter – every three or four years instead of every 10,” a district veterinary official told AFP in August.

Many have said that they believe climate change is causing the more severe and frequent droughts in the region, or in the very least exacerbating the situation.

Last month brought relief for now: rains began to fall in the region and the vegetation is coming back.

The image compares the growth of vegetation between July 21st and October 10, 2009 to the average growth over the same period from 2002-2008. Green areas show better-than-average growth, tan areas reflect average conditions, and brown areas show poorer-than-average growth. Image courtesy of NASA.

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