Millions of people in the arid regions of the Horn of Africa face significant threats from the increasing severity and frequency of droughts, a result of dramatically decreased annual rainfall. The 2011 drought in East Africa caused food shortages for 10 million people and led to more than 260,000 deaths in Somalia alone. The recent 2016-2017 drought in Kenya resulted in three million people facing food insecurity.
Historic responses to drought are reactive and involve emergency assistance, which saves lives but then disappears when the immediate crisis dissipates. This cycle of drought emergencies in arid regions of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia can end. The solution is the Drought Resilience Impact Platform (DRIP), an international water security partnership of nonprofits, government, and research institutions. DRIP ensures that even when rains are deficient, water is available and drought emergencies no longer cause crises for people in the Horn of Africa. DRIP will empower institutions and communities to use evidence-based responses that maintain consistent, safe water availability.
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The Drought Resilience Impact Platform has made substantial impact through support of the NASA-USAID SERVIR Applied Science Program in Kenya and Ethiopia. The team has developed models for groundwater demand based on Earth observations for rainfall and surface water from satellite missions, including the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite. We also can track water levels using NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), which uses gravity to measure changes in water amounts on and below the Earth’s surface, and satellite-based soil moisture estimates using synthetic aperture radar data.