The world has experienced several disasters including earthquakes, floods, fires, drought, epidemic, and other variants.

UN has warned the world on the next emerging pandemic to be drought after COVID-19.

What it means

Drought is a deficiency of precipitation over an extended period, usually a season or more, which results in a water shortage for some activity, group, or environmental sectors. However, in terms of typologies, droughts are classified as meteorological, agricultural, hydrological, and socio-economic.

Issues of drought have existed over centuries causing anxiety or depression about economic losses, conflict when there is not enough water, reduced income, fewer recreational activities, the higher incident of heatstroke, substantial increase in wildfire risk, loss of lives, and famine.

Global warming contributes to drought, i.e. rising temperatures generally make wet regions wetter and dry regions drier. For wetter regions, warm air absorbs more water, leading to larger rain events. But in more arid regions, warmer temperatures mean water evaporates more quickly causing drought.

Effects

According to the UN, the convention to combat desertification; is the Drought Initiative. Drought is considered one of the most far-reaching natural disasters, bringing short and long-term economic and social losses to millions of people worldwide. Many countries across the globe that soon may face the impact of intense drought still lack a comprehensive plan of action at the first signs of drought. Drought and water scarcity- interconnected phenomena that often aggravate each other’s effect- can trigger major setbacks for the most disadvantaged populations: from famine to migration and displacement. A single year of drought can undermine years of social development, in particular for vulnerable members of society.

Droughts have always been part of the human experience, but the damage and costs resulting from them are seriously underestimated. This is due to widespread and cascading impacts that are often not explicitly attributed to the knock-on effects of drought

Caution on Drought

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, said that “Drought is on the verge of becoming the next pandemic and there is no vaccine to cure it. Drought has directly affected 1.5 billion people so far this century and this number will grow dramatically unless the world gets better at managing this risk and understanding its root causes and taking action to stop them,”

“Most of the world will be living with water stress in the next few years. Demand will outstrip supply during certain periods. Drought is a major factor in land degradation and the decline of yields for major crops. Climate change means that shifting rainfall patterns and greater variability in precipitation poses a risk to the 70% of global agriculture that is rain-fed.

“A warming planet threatens to multiply the numbers of people without access to safe water and sanitation, thereby increasing the spread of disease, the risk of displacement, and the potential for conflict over scarce water resources,” she added.

Recommendations

The UN recommends that a mechanism for drought management at the International and national levels could help address the complex and cascading nature of drought risk. Also, prevention has far lower human, financial and environmental costs than reaction and response.

Furthermore increased understanding of complex systemic risks and improved risk governance can lead to effective action on drought risk. Drought resilience partnerships at the national and local levels will be critical to managing drought in a warming world where rainfall will become ever more unpredictable and require practical solutions to tackle issues like deforestation, excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, overgrazing, salination, waterlogging and soil erosion.