2-Year Drought 'a Human Tragedy That's Only Growing'

Widespread drought conditions affect nearly 1 out of every 4 people on the planet
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2024 10:29 AM CST
'It Is a Human Tragedy That's Only Growing'
Residents of a riverside community carry food and containers of drinking water from an aid distribution due to the ongoing drought in Careiro da Varzea, Amazonas state, Brazil, Oct. 24, 2023.   (AP Photo /Edmar Barros, File)

The last two years have been brutal in terms of drought. Nearly 25% of the world's population, some 1.84 billion people, were living under drought in 2022 and 2023, according to a UN report shared last month. The Horn of Africa experienced its worst drought in four decades, per SciDev.Net. On the Iberian peninsula, January to April marked the driest start to any year since the 1960s, per Wine Spectator. As of Nov. 30, more than 72% of Canada was experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions, per CTV News, a factor in the country's worst ever wildfire season. Such conditions are linked to climate change and El Niño, which is affecting crop yields on an estimated 25% of agricultural land around the world and will continue to take a toll this year, per the New York Times.

During the last El Niño, from 2014 to 2016, millions of people in Southeast Asia experienced food insecurity with a major drop in rice yields. Researchers say the same thing could happen again, per the Times. India, the world's largest rice exporter, banned rice exports in 2023, prioritizing its own citizens in anticipation of drought, causing prices to soar to their highest level since the 2008 global financial crisis, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. Past El Niños also wreaked havoc on maize crops, central to diets in Southern Africa and Central America, where many people "already live hand-to-mouth and are struggling with already high food prices," per the Times.

A recent study linked droughts in Central America to greater levels of migrations north to the US. Yet droughts tend to "operate in silence, often going unnoticed and failing to provoke an immediate public and political response," Ibrahim Thiaw, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, wrote in the December report. The document, based on datasets from 101 countries, warned of an "unprecedented emergency on a planetary scale" and called for "transformational change" including the adoption of water-efficient technologies and the "off-setting" of carbon emissions through land restoration. "Droughts are hitting harder and more often—up 29% since 2000," lead author Daniel Tsegai told SciDev.Net. "It is a human tragedy that's only growing." (More drought stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.