The number and duration of droughts have increased by 29% since 2000

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The study, which is published during the fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), calls for reach a global commitment to drought preparedness and resilience in all regions of the world.

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

The report compiles a series of information and data related to the drought and helps to guide the negotiations on one of the several decisions that the 196 Member States of the Convention will take, which will be published on May 20 at the end of COP15.

Thiaw affirmed that humanity is at “a crossroads” in terms of drought management and indicated that it is necessary to accelerate its reduction “urgently, using all the tools we can”.

As a possible solution, he pointed to the recovery of the land, “which deals with many of the factors that cause the alteration of the water cycles and the loss of soil fertility. We must build and rebuild our landscapes better, imitating nature wherever possible and creating effective ecological systems“.

Reasons to take action

  • The number and duration of droughts have increased by 29% since 2000
  • Unforeseen weather, climate and water events between 1970 and 2019 have caused 50% of disasters and 45% of deaths related to these causes, especially in developing countries
  • Droughts account for 15% of natural catastrophes, but they claimed a large number of victims, approximately 650,000 deaths between 1970 and 2019
  • Droughts caused global economic losses of approximately 124 billion dollars between 1998 and 2017
  • More than 2.3 billion people face water stress in 2022; nearly 160 million children are exposed to severe and prolonged drought

If you don’t act immediately

  • It is estimated that by 2023 some 700 million people will be at risk of displacement due to causes related to droughts
  • It is projected that by 2040 one in four children will live in areas with extreme water scarcity
  • It is believed that by 2050 droughts may affect more than three-quarters of the world’s population and that between 4.8 and 5.7 billion people will live in areas with water scarcity for at least one month each year, up from 3.6 billion today

The report notes that 128 countries have already expressed their willingness to meet or exceed the Land Degradation Neutrality. Some 70 nations have participated in the Convention’s global drought initiative, which seeks to move from reactive approaches to drought to proactive, risk-reduction methods.

The study was released ahead of the publication of the World Meteorological Organization’s report on the state of the global climate in 2021, which will be published on May 18 and will highlight the devastating effects of drought in some parts of the world, such as the Horn from Africa.

Other highlights of the report

  • More than ten million people died due to major droughts during the last century causing economic losses of several hundred billion dollars worldwide. And the numbers keep rising
  • The continent most affected by droughts is Africa, with more than 300 events recorded in the last hundred years, which represents 44% of the world total
  • During the 20th century, there were 45 major droughts in Europe, affecting millions of people and causing economic losses of more than $27.8 billion. Today, drought affects an annual average of 15% of the land surface and 17% of the population of the European Union
  • Crop and other economic losses due to droughts in the United States have amounted to several hundred billion dollars in the last century ($249 billion since 1980 alone)
  • The largest number of people affected by drought in the last century occurred in Asia
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