Nor is the impact of climate change in the region straightforward. FEWS-Net’s Funk warned in his column for Nature:

The global climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were never intended to provide rainfall trend projections for every region. These models say that East Africa will become wetter, yet observations show substantial declines in spring rainfall in recent years. Despite this, several agencies are building long-term plans on the basis of the forecast of wetter conditions. This could lead to agricultural development and expansion in areas that will become drier. More climate science based on regional observations could be helpful in addressing these challenges.

The Horn of Africa unfortunately has a long history of famines. Agricultural yields in the region are low, and improving them is vital, but there is little sign of that happening so far. The situation is exacerbated by rapid population growth, military conflict and political instability. No doubt more news coverage would help with the current relief efforts, but the larger question is tougher to answer: What can the media do to help create long-term solutions?

James Fahn is the executive director of Internews's Earth Journalism Network and the author of A Land on Fire.