Africa: Water deficits forecast across the North & Gabon, DRC, Kenya

26 April 2017

The Big Picture
Widespread severe to exceptional water deficits remain in the 12-month forecast for northern Africa. Exceptional deficits are also forecast for southern Gabon, southern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and western Madagascar.

Moderate to extreme deficits are forecast for Cameroon, Congo, DRC, Angola, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, southwest Kenya, and Somaliland.

Surpluses are forecast in western Zambia, northern Botswana, Zimbabwe, southeast Tanzania, and northern South Africa.

Flooding during this year's rainy season has already claimed the lives of more than 250 people in Zimbabwe and now nearly 200 have died from a malaria outbreak. Since flooding began in January 134,223 cases of malaria have been reported and the risk of contracting typhoid from contaminated water - already a problem in the capital, Harare - is an additional concern. The country's Meteorological Services Department has also linked the high number of snake bite cases to heavy rains. The Zimbabwean government has appealed to the international community for US$200 million in flood recovery aid.

Drought in Somalia has severely reduced access to clean water and cholera - a waterborne disease - is spreading well ahead of the rainy season, leading worried health officials to wonder how many more cases they'll be dealing with once the rainy season starts in a few weeks. More than 25,000 people have contracted cholera in the past three months and WHO (World Health Organization) reports 524 deaths.

The UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) reports that 187,000 Somalians have been internally displaced in March alone due to drought, with 50,000 arriving in Baidoa and 44,000 in Mogadishu. Illness like cholera, not hunger, is the main killer around Baidoa.

For the 50,000 refugees who fled violence and hunger in South Sudan and are now living in Uganda's Rhino camp, the threat of waterborne disease is also a concern as access to clean water in the community is now strained. The International Federation of the Red Cross is siphoning, treating, and trucking water from the River Nile.

Forecast Breakdown
The 3-month maps (below) show the evolving conditions in more detail.

Widespread exceptional water deficits are forecast to emerge across northern Africa from April through June. This includes: Egypt, northern Sudan, Libya, northern Chad, northern Niger, southeast Algeria, northern Mali, and eastern Mauritania. Moderate to extreme deficits are forecast in eastern Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, DRC, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Kenya. Deficits in the Horn of Africa, DRC, and Angola are expected to downgrade to primarily moderate severity.

Surpluses are expected in southeast Sudan and into South Sudan. Surpluses are also forecast in: southeastern Tanzania, western Zambia, the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana, Zimbabwe, northern South Africa south of the Botswana border, and northern Madagascar.

From July through September deficits across northern Africa are forecast to recede slightly overall, with conditions in Mauritania and Mali returning to near-normal while severe to exceptional deficits will persist in the remaining aforementioned countries. Conditions in Africa’s southern half are forecast to be similar to the prior three months with the following exceptions: Severe to exceptional deficits are expected to emerge in southern Somalia; surpluses in Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa will transition, resulting in deficits or both deficits and surpluses; and, moderate to severe deficits may emerge in northeast Namibia. Surpluses are forecast in southeastern Tanzania and in Zambia.

The forecast for the final months of the 12-month period – October through December – shows a modest downturn in the intensity of deficits overall.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)


Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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