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Floods in Sudan, as Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Uganda experience seasonal rainfall deficits

  • Seasonal Monitor
  • East Africa
  • August 17, 2018
Floods in Sudan, as Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Uganda experience seasonal rainfall deficits

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  • Key Messages
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    Key Messages
    • Since mid-July, persistent and well above-average seasonal rains in Sudan caused significant levels of flooding. According to reports, over 45,000 people have been affected in West Kordofan, Kassala, El Gezira, Sennar, and Northern states. Meanwhile, large areas of western Ethiopia, southeastern South Sudan, and northern Uganda have experienced significant rainfall deficits for the past month, resulting in soil and crop moisture stress.

    • As typical for this time of year, the Eastern Horn remains dry, but generally favorable pasture and water conditions persist. Remote sensing products indicate there are localized areas of drier-than-normal vegetative conditions over southern and northern Somalia coastal areas, and in other parts of the Region in western and northern Uganda, and southeastern South Sudan.

    • The short-term rainfall forecast is for moderate to localized very heavy rains for Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, northern Uganda, and southwestern Kenya. Additional flooding, particularly for Sudan, is likely.


    From July 10 to August 10, much of Sudan continued to experience above-average rainfall amounts, greater than 50 mm of normal (Figure 1). The surplus rains, coupled with increased soil saturation, led to flooding over eastern parts of the country. According to the latest reports from ICRC, more than 45,000 people have been affected in West Kordofan, Kassala, El Gezira, Sennar, and Northern states, many of whom have been displaced.

    Over the same time period, however, when the seasonal rains typically peak, there was a marked decrease in rainfall amounts in localized regions of southeastern Sudan, neighboring Ethiopia, and South Sudan. The rainfall was poorly distributed and below-average. Similarly, northern regions of Uganda received less than 25 to 74 mm of typical rainfall (less than 50 percent of average) during the past 30 days. There were also rainfall deficits, but not as significant, over the North Rift Valley and southwestern counties of Kenya. Parts of eastern DRC and central Yemen also observed similar rainfall deficits between -25 to -50 mm. 

    Early August remote sensing products, including the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (eMODIS/NDVI), continue to show evidence of extensive areas of normal to significantly “greener-than-normal” vegetation conditions for pasture and/or crops across much of East Africa (Figure 2). Despite it being the dry season for the Eastern Horn, these favorable rangeland resources generally persist, following the well above-average March to May seasonal rains. However, there are localized areas of moderately to significantly “drier-than-normal” conditions over parts of Somalia’s southern coastal strip and northern regions, western and northern Uganda, Kapoeta East regions of South Sudan, and along the Rift Valley regions of southern to northern Ethiopia. In Kenya’s Mandera and Turkana counties, together with western Rwanda and Burundi, there are emerging areas experiencing a deterioration in vegetation conditions.

    For much of the northern sector of East Africa, crops are currently in their reproductive stages for the May to June planted cereal crops, especially in Sudan, western and central Ethiopia, South Sudan, and northern Uganda. Overall, the crop conditions are mostly favorable, ranging between very good to average, as crops are meeting their minimum water requirements. However, there have been some areas in the region where cropping conditions have not been as favorable. In parts of Ethiopia’s eastern Amhara and southern Tigray, below-average rainfall and a delayed start of the Meher season may impact crop production prospects. In addition, there has been below-average rainfall in southern areas of Ethiopia’s SNNPR and along the Rift Valley regions, South Sudan’s Kapoeta East region, and northwestern cropping zones of Uganda, which have led to water stress for crops and mediocre to poor cropping conditions.

    For much of Rwanda, Burundi, eastern and central marginal cropping zones of Kenya, and southern Somalia, the prevailing sunny and dry conditions have generally provided good conditions for crop harvesting and drying activities. Recent field reports from these countries are indicative of near-average to well above-normal total crop production prospects. This is also confirmed by FEWS NET’s seasonal crop simulation models for maize and other grains, following the favorable March to June seasonal rains. However, beans and other legumes were adversely affected by floods, as well as diseases and pests, in areas that experienced excessive rainfall during the Gu/long rains season in these countries. Similarly, early-planted riverine cereal crops in southern Somalia were negatively affected.

    The following is a country-by-country update on recent seasonal progress to date:

    • In Somalia, the total Gu season crop production is expected to be above average overall, but mixed regionally. Field reports indicate above-average prospects over rainfed agricultural areas of the southern Somalia sorghum-belt, but below average prospects for the early-planted crops along riverine cropping zones. However, for late-planted flood recessive crops, there are good prospects for above-average production, but the harvest is likely to be in September.
    • In Ethiopia, the overall cumulative June to early August rainfall performance has generally been average to above average, but there has been below-average rainfall between July 10 to August 10. Significant rainfall deficits, ranging between -25 to -100 mm, have occurred over the past 30 days, particularly over large areas of Amhara and Oromia.  Overall, these seasonal rains have been largely sufficient for crop growing. Currently, the grain crop is in very good to good condition and between its vegetative to early reproductive stages. If the rains continue as forecast, then these good crop production prospects are expected to hold during the main harvesting period between October and January. Soil and crop stress conditions are only evident in southern SNNPR and along the Rift Valley regions of Ethiopia, where the long-cycle Meher crops are likely to experience reduced yields under the current agricultural conditions. Rangeland resources remain generally favorable over most parts of the pastoral regions of southern and eastern Ethiopia due to the lingering effects of the above-average March to May seasonal rains.
    • In Sudan, the cropping conditions across the country are generally favorable due to the ongoing, well-distributed, and above-average to average rainfall amounts. However, the recent flash floods over West Kordofan, Kassala, El Gezira, Sennar, and Northern states are likely to have caused crop damage and livestock losses within the flood plains. The extent of adverse impacts are yet to be fully assessed and determined. With forecasted continued torrential rains, more crop zones are likely to be affected by flooding through September, especially along the flood-prone Blue and Upper Nile regions and West Darfur.
    • In South Sudan, extensive areas in southern and eastern South Sudan experienced below-average rainfall amounts, less than 75 percent of normal over the past 30 days, with Kapoeta East being the worst-affected by poor seasonal rainfall performance. Although cropping conditions are largely favorable, Kapoeta East and surrounding counties are likely to experience crop-water stress, with an increased likelihood for below-average yields in localized areas by the end of the cropping season in September.
    • In Kenya, early reports from the ongoing long rains assessment indicate increased crop production in marginal agricultural areas, particularly for maize, millet, and green grams due to the favorable long rains season, increases in area planted, and the provision of seeds. However, below-average harvests of beans and Irish potatoes are expected due to a combination of waterlogging, leaching of soils, and Fall Armyworm infestations that negatively affected cropping areas. In Kenya’s medium and high-producing areas, due to the above-average unimodal rainy season, which typically ends in August, maize production prospects remain favorable. Rangeland conditions in the pastoral areas remain atypically above seasonal averages, particularly for browse, following the above-average long rains; pasture generally ranges from fair to good. Efforts to combat Rift Valley Fever (RVF) continue across several counties, but in August there have been a lower reported number of newly infected livestock.
    • In Uganda, parts of northwestern and western areas of the country experienced significant rainfall deficits between July 10 to August 10, causing some soil and crop moisture stress. However, the bimodal cropping conditions have generally remained favorable, permitting average to above-average yields for the first season harvest. Below-average yields in only a few localized areas are expected in northwestern parts of the country. Overall, Uganda expects average crop production during the ongoing harvest period. However, the latest field reports from Karamoja indicate yields to be lower than earlier anticipated, by 30 to 60 percent, and there will be a delayed harvest due to the adverse impacts of previous flooding and waterlogging.
    • In Burundi and Rwanda, the Season B harvest activities have ended, and there are confirmed bean and legume production short-falls in Rutsiro and Karongi districts in western Rwanda and also in Gatumba and Mutimbizi communes of Burundi. Maize production was not adversely affected by the floods and is likely to be near-average in both countries.
    • In Yemen, much of the central highlands of the country have experienced below-average rainfall amounts since the start of the season in June. In addition, ongoing seasonal agricultural activities continue to remain constrained by the current conflict. Meanwhile, over the past 30 days, pastoral areas have experienced near-normal rainfall amounts. 


    The short-term forecast over the next one to two weeks indicates continued moderate to localized very heavy rains over western, central, and parts of southwestern Ethiopian highlands, together with much of Sudan and South Sudan. Similarly, Karamoja and northern regions of Uganda are also likely to continue experiencing moderate to heavy rains, according to the GFS forecast (Figure 3). Western and parts of Kenya’s central counties, as well as much of the East Africa coastal strip, are also likely to remain fairly wet over the next few weeks.

    Flash floods are likely to occur over western and central Ethiopian lowlands and eastern border areas of Sudan. Considering the ongoing floods, saturated soils, and forecast heavy rains for the coming weeks, the flood-risk remains high in Sudan’s Red Sea, Kassala, Khartoum, and western Darfur states.

    Normal sunny and dry conditions are forecast to continue over the Eastern Horn, Rwanda, Burundi, southern Uganda, and much of Tanzania for the next one to two weeks.

    Figures Between July 10 to August 10, large areas of Sudan received above-average rainfall but seasonal deficits have emerged in part

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. CHIRPS-Preliminary-based seasonal rainfall accumulation anomalies in comparison to average (1981-2010), July 10 - August 10, 2018

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Greener-than-normal vegetation conditions persist over large areas of the Eastern Horn, but some areas in parts of southern a

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. eMODIS/NDVI percent of normal (2007-2016), August 1 - 11, 2018

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    The short-term forecast indicates continued moderate to localized very heavy rains over western, central, and parts of southw

    Figure 3

    Figure 3. Week 1 GFS-Rainfall forecast (mm), valid through August 22, 2018

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    FEWS NET’s Seasonal Monitor reports are produced for Central America and the Caribbean, West Africa, East Africa, Central Asia, and Somalia every 10-to-30 days during the region’s respective rainy season(s). Seasonal Monitors report updates on weather events (e.g., rainfall patterns) and associated impacts on ground conditions (e.g., cropping conditions, pasture and water availability), as well as the short-term rainfall forecast. Find more remote sensing information here.

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