El Nino phenomenon expected in coming weeks

Uganda is anticipating unusually high rainfall associated with El Nino, a weather phenomenon typically associated with the warming up of the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

Last month, the Ugandan authorities issued a national alert over the impending El Nino event, which is expected to peak in October. They warned the public to take the necessary precautionary measures and store food for the next season.

Martin Owuor, Uganda's commissioner for disaster preparedness, told IRIN the government had already set up a number of task forces to put in place various measures to prevent disasters and disease outbreaks during the period.

He said the current rain in most parts of the country was the initial phase of El Nino. "We have done what is required. Temporary bridges have been assessed. I believe we are quite prepared," Owuor said.

However he stressed that the phenomenon was not expected to be as destructive as the previous El Nino rains, which caused severe flooding and destroyed much of East Africa's infrastructure between 1997 and 1998.

In neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania, no significant changes in the rainfall patterns are anticipated for the rest of the year.

An official at Kenya's Meteorological Department told IRIN that although the Pacific was currently warmer than normal, Kenya was unlikely to receive significant amounts of rainfall in the coming months, due to cooler Indian Ocean temperatures - a major source of moisture in the country.

In Tanzania, most regions have experienced a normally dry season which began in June, according to a report by USAID's Famine Early Warning System (FEWS).

"Even where vegetation was below normal, satisfactory availability of water, pasture, and browse in most of these regions was sufficient to sustain livestock feeding, growth, and reproduction," the report noted.

"Pastoralists have neither migrated in the unusual manner in search of pasture and water for their livestock, nor sold parts of their herds due to shortages of feed."