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World ‘at a crossroads’ as droughts increase nearly a third in a generation — Global Issues


Through it newly published Drought in quantity report, issued in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, during the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15), the UNCCD’s Summary of Drought-Related Information and Data is helping inform negotiations on the final outcome of the conference when it closes on May 20.

“The facts and figures for this publication point in the same direction: An upward trajectory during droughts and the severity of impacts, not only,” said UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw. affects human societies but also the ecological systems on which the survival of all life depends, including our own.”

A compelling call-to-action

The report revealed that between 1970 and 2019, weather, climate and water hazards accounted for 50% of all disasters and 45% of disaster-related deaths, mainly in developing countries. develop.

Furthermore, while droughts represented 15% of natural disasters, they caused about 650,000 deaths during that period.

And between 1998 and 2017, drought caused an estimated $124 billion in global economic damage — a number and duration that has increased 29% since 2000.

Meanwhile in 2022, more than 2.3 billion people are facing water stress and nearly 160 million children are facing severe and prolonged drought.

The burden on women

Drought has far-reaching, widespread, and underappreciated impacts on societies, ecosystems and economies, affecting an estimated 1.4 billion people between 2000 and 2019.

Second only to floods, drought causes the greatest suffering for women and girls in developing countries, in terms of education, nutrition, health, hygiene and safety.

The publication explains that 72% of women and 9% of girls bear the burden of getting water, in some cases spending up to 40% of their heat energy carrying it.

Ecosystems are focused

Drought in quantity Also paints a bleak picture around ecosystems, noting that the proportion of vegetation affected by drought has more than doubled in the past 40 years – with around 12 million hectares of land lost each year to drought. drought and desertification.

Meanwhile, they are becoming increasingly common in the vast Amazon region, which has suffered three widespread droughts that caused major wildfires during the first two decades of this century.

The report warns that if deforestation in the Amazon continues unabated, 16% of the region’s remaining forest will be burned by 2050.

And in Europe, photosynthesis was reduced by 30% during the 2003 summer drought there.

Over the past century, more than 10 million people have died as a result of major drought events, causing economic losses of hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide. And the numbers are growing.

A woman collects water from a dry river bed during high water in Madagascar.

© UNOCHA / Viviane Rakotoarivony

A woman collects water from a dry river bed during high water in Madagascar.

No continent is safe

While severe drought affects Africa more than any other continent – accounting for 44% of the total global area – over the past century, 45 major drought events have also affected millions of people in Africa. Europe – affects an average of 15% of that continent’s area and 17% of its population.

In the United States, crop losses due to drought and other economic losses have amounted to $249 billion since 1980 alone, and over the past century Asia has been the continent with the most total number of people affected by drought. tallest.

Offer a solution

“One of the best, most comprehensive solutions is soil restoration, which addresses many of the fundamental factors of the water cycle of degradation and loss of soil fertility,” said Mr. Thiaw.

“We must better build and reconstruct our landscapes, mimic nature wherever possible, and create functional ecological systems.”

he added.

Look forward

Unless the action is enhanced:

  • By 2030, an estimated 700 million people will be at risk of being displaced by drought.
  • By 2040, it is estimated that one in four children will live in areas of extreme water shortage.
  • By 2050, drought could affect more than three-quarters of the world’s population and an estimated 4.8-5.7 billion people will live in water-scarce areas for at least one month each year, increased from the current 3.6 billion. And up to 216 million people could be forced to migrate by 2050, largely due to drought combined with other factors including water scarcity, reduced crop yields, sea level rise and overpopulation.

According to the report, climate change is expected to increase the risk of drought in many vulnerable areas of the world, especially those areas with rapid population growth, vulnerable populations. trade and food security challenges.

Over the next few decades, 129 countries will experience an increase in drought – 23 mainly due to population growth and 38 due to the interaction between climate change and population growth.

And if global warming reaches 3℃ by 2100, drought damage could be five times higher than it is today, with the biggest increases in the Mediterranean and Atlantic regions of Europe.

More food, less land

Sustainable and efficient agricultural management techniques are needed to grow more food on less land and with less water, and people must change their relationship with food. livestock and fiber – switch to a plant-based diet and limit animal consumption, according to the summary.

Getting on the right track requires coordinated policy and partnerships at all levels along with integrated drought action plans.

Early warning systems that work across borders, new technologies to guide decisions with sustainable and accurate funding to improve drought resilience at the local level are also key actions. .



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