The number of droughts has increased by 29% since 2000 and mitigation is urgently needed, UN warns

Humanity is “at a crossroads” in drought management, with a number and duration increasing by 29% since 2000, warns a new United Nations report.

The report, called Droughts in Numbers, 2022, says mitigation is needed “urgently, using every possible tool.”

“We are at a crossroads,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“We must move towards solutions rather than continuing with destructive actions, believing that a marginal change can heal systemic failure.”

Humanity is

Humanity is “at a crossroads” in drought management, with the number and duration increasing by 29 percent since 2000, a new United Nations report warned.

What will happen if the action is not escalated?

If urgent action is not taken, the UN has some daunting predictions.

By 2030 it is estimated that 700 million people will be at risk of being displaced by drought, while by 2040, around a quarter of children will live in areas with extreme water shortages.

Looking to 2050, without urgent action, drought could affect three-quarters of the world’s population, with up to 5.7 billion people living in water-scarce areas.

The report highlights several troubling facts and figures about the current state of drought around the world.

From 1970 to 2019, weather, climate and water hazards accounted for half of all disasters and 45 percent of disaster-related deaths, mostly in developing countries, according to the report.

But despite accounting for only 15% of natural disasters during this period, the drought caused the largest number of human deaths, with around 650,000 deaths.

The report also highlights the huge economic toll the drought has on the global economy.

From 1998 to 2017, drought is estimated to have caused global losses of approximately $ 124 billion.

Today, more than 2.3 billion people face water stress, with nearly 160 million children exposed to severe and prolonged drought, he added.

“The facts and figures in this publication all point in the same direction: an upward trajectory of the duration of droughts and the severity of impacts, which affects not only human societies but also the ecological systems on which the survival of all life depends, including that of our kind, ‘Mr Thiaw.

If urgent action is not taken, the UN has some daunting predictions.

By 2030 it is estimated that 700 million people will be at risk of being displaced by drought, while by 2040, around a quarter of children will live in areas with extreme water shortages.

Looking to 2050, without urgent action, drought could affect three-quarters of the world’s population, with up to 5.7 billion people living in water-scarce areas.

Today, more than 2.3 billion people face water stress, with nearly 160 million children exposed to severe and prolonged drought, according to the report.  Dark red to white represents the most to least vulnerable areas

Today, more than 2.3 billion people face water stress, with nearly 160 million children exposed to severe and prolonged drought, according to the report. Dark red to white represents the most to least vulnerable areas

Other solutions described in the report include effective early warning systems, satellite monitoring and investments in soil health

Other solutions described in the report include effective early warning systems, satellite monitoring and investments in soil health

Mrs Thiaw says that we need to start taking a more proactive and risk-based approach to drought management, rather than reactive and crisis-based.

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

“We need to build and reconstruct our landscapes better, imitating nature where possible and creating functional ecological systems.”

The report highlights several possible solutions in drought management.

It suggests that we should change our relationships with food, fodder and fiber, moving towards a plant-based diet and reducing or stopping the consumption of animals.

Meanwhile, more sustainable and efficient agricultural management techniques could allow us to grow more food on less land and with less water.

Other solutions described in the report include effective early warning systems, satellite monitoring and investments in soil health.

So far, 70 countries have participated in the UNCCD’s global drought initiative, according to the report.

“We all must live up to our responsibility to ensure the health of present and future generations, wholeheartedly and without delay,” added Thiaw.

Changes needed to mitigate drought

The report highlights several changes needed to mitigate drought:

  • Sustainable and efficient agricultural management techniques that produce more food on less land and with less water
  • Changes in our relationships with food, fodder and fiber, moving towards plant-based diets and reducing or stopping the consumption of animals
  • Concerted policy and partnerships at all levels
  • Development and implementation of integrated action plans against drought
  • Establish effective early warning systems that work across borders
  • Implementation of new technologies such as satellite monitoring and artificial intelligence to guide decisions with greater precision
  • Regular monitoring and reporting to ensure continuous improvement
  • Mobilize sustainable finance to improve drought resilience at the local level
  • Invest in soil health
  • Working together and involving and mobilizing farmers, local communities, businesses, consumers, investors, entrepreneurs and, above all, young people

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