The world “at a crossroads” in drought management

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Drought in Numbers, 2022, released to mark Drought Day during the 15th Conference of the Parties of the UNCCD (COP15, 9-20 May in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire), calls for full global commitment to drought preparedness and resilience in all regions of the world as a top priority.

The report, a compendium of drought information and data, helps inform negotiations on one of many decisions that will be made by the 196 UNCCD member states by May 20 at the end of COP15. .

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

The report was released ahead of the May 18 release of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report on the state of the global climate in 2021, which will highlight the debilitating effects of drought in parts of the world, like the Horn of Africa.

The challenges are growing

“There has been a decrease in soil moisture in many parts of the world, which is very striking for agricultural production. We have seen an acceleration in the melting of glaciers, which means that rivers are getting less fresh water. We have seen changes in the rainfall pattern. Some parts of the world are getting drier and others are experiencing more flooding problems,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

The UNCCD report, which puts forward a convincing call for action, notes that since 2000, the number and duration of droughts have increased by 29%, that from 1970 to 2019 weather, climate and water hazards have represented 50% disasters and 45% of disaster-related deaths, mainly in developing countries, just as droughts account for 15% of natural disasters. In addition, they caused the largest number of human victims, around 650,000 deaths between 1970 and 2019.

From 1998 to 2017, droughts caused global economic losses of approximately $124 billion.

In 2022, more than 2.3 billion people are facing water stress. Nearly 160 million children are at risk of severe and prolonged droughts, the report says.

By 2050, droughts could affect more than three-quarters of the world’s population

According to the UNCCD, unless measures are taken by 2030, an estimated 700 million people are at risk of being displaced by drought By 2040, one in four children will live in regions struggling with a shortage extreme water levels, and by 2050 droughts could affect more than three quarters of the world’s population.

It is also estimated that 4.8 to 5.7 billion people will live in areas where water is scarce for at least one month each year, compared to 3.6 billion today. And up to 216 million people could be forced to migrate by 2050, largely due to drought and other factors including water scarcity, declining crop productivity, rising sea ​​level and overpopulation.

“We are at a crossroads,” said UNCCD Executive Secretary, noting the imperative to focus on solutions rather than pursuing destructive actions, believing that marginal changes can cure failure systemic.

“One of the best and most cohesive solutions is land restoration, which takes into account many of the factors underlying degraded water cycles and loss of soil fertility. We need to build and rebuild our landscapes better, mimic nature wherever possible, and create functioning ecological systems,” Thiaw added.

Proactive and risk-based approaches

Beyond restoration, he continued, there is a need to move from “reactive” and “crisis-based” to “proactive” and “risk-based” approaches to drought management. involving coordination, communication and cooperation, driven by sufficient financial and political will.

For his part, WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas, highlighted the organization’s initiatives to combat drought. For example, WMO is working to expand the coverage of early warning services, especially for flash floods, drought, and sand and dust storms.

The new UNCCD report notes that 128 countries have expressed their willingness to achieve or exceed land degradation neutrality. And nearly 70 countries have participated in the UNCCD’s global drought initiative, which aims to move from reactive to proactive and risk-reducing approaches.

In this sense, the report considers that the COP15 decision on drought should touch on five interrelated areas, namely drought policies, early warning, monitoring and evaluation, knowledge sharing and learning, partnerships and coordination and funding.

Raising public awareness of desertification and drought

The UNCCD on Wednesday launched an awareness campaign called “Droughtland”. This is a new public awareness campaign that aims to showcase solutions and galvanize global action against drought.

The campaign will be showcased on the United Nations Day for Desertification and Drought, June 17, held this year in Madrid, Spain.

Mr. Thiaw stressed the importance of raising awareness about desertification and drought, and letting people know that the problems can be solved effectively “through ingenuity, commitment and solidarity”.

“We must all assume our responsibility to ensure the health of present and future generations wholeheartedly and without delay,” he said.

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