NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — With the prospect of a sixth consecutive failed rainy season in the East and Horn of Africa, Kenya’s president hopes the heavens will finally open with the help of a national day of mass prayer on Tuesday.
William Ruto announced plans for the country’s first-ever day of prayer on Sunday during a service in the drought-stricken town of Nakuru, about 100 miles from the capital Nairobi. It follows a collective call from the country’s spiritual leaders to dedicate an entire day to prayer to alleviate the country’s drought.
Ruto’s own ambitious economic recovery strategy for the country also depends on a successful rainy season.
“As a government, we have put in place comprehensive food security plans, we have seeds, adequate fertilizers and strategies for harvesting water, including dams. We now need God to send us the rain,” Ruto said. “I urge all people of all religions to pray for our country.”
Kenya and other East African countries have experienced some of the worst droughts in decades, resulting in crop failures, loss of livestock, wildlife and biodiversity, and malnutrition. Domestic agriculture is a large part of Kenya’s economy.
The UN humanitarian agency has called the region’s ongoing drought a “rapidly unfolding humanitarian catastrophe”.
Meteorologists say human-induced climate change has exacerbated extreme conditions.
“It’s time we started incorporating climate change into our development plans,” Evans Mukolwe, former director of the Kenyan and UN weather agencies, told The Associated Press. the socio-economic conditions of the region, including peace, security and political stability.”
Mukolwe added that climate change has contributed to below-average rainy seasons in the region for about three decades.
The Intergovernmental Authority for Development’s climate center said five rainy seasons have failed since 2020, affecting more than 50 million people. The center will release its projections for the long rainy season, usually from March to May, later in February. Early projections from other meteorological groups are not optimistic.
Around the world, people of different religions have often sought divine intervention for rain or other favorable weather. Last summer, the archbishop of Milan made a pilgrimage to three churches in hopes of ending the country’s dry spell and the governor of Utah called on citizens to pray for rain ahead of a weekend of extreme heat.
Some Kenyans intend to heed the president’s call.
Millicent Nyambura, owner of the business in Nairobi, said she supported the idea, “even though it will affect my flower trade colleagues who expect to boost sales on Valentine’s Day.”
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