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By Isolda Agazzi
Drought has dramatically increased as a consequence of climate change. Most countries react to it only after it has occurred, but don’t have national policies to prevent it. The high-level meeting on national drought policies in Geneva this week is trying to match scientific knowledge with political awareness.
“Drought is a natural phenomenon, but over the last decades, as a consequence of climate change, it has been escalating in frequency and intensity, affecting millions of people across the world,” Loc Gnacadja, executive secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCC), said at the meeting.
The meeting, jointly organised by UNCC, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), brings together scientists and government officials to “start a dialogue on national policies,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the WMO. “We have to facilitate the transition from crisis management to catastrophes prevention, like it has been successfully done for tsunamis and other natural catastrophes.”
Drought affects more people than any other natural disaster: since 1900 more than 11 million people have died as a consequence of drought, and over two billion people have been affected. In Africa, a third of the people already live in drought-affected areas.
Half of the world population will live in areas of high water scarcity by 2020. And drought is the single most common cause of food shortages, severely affecting food security in developing countries and jeopardising the FAO’s effort to increase food production by 70 percent by 2050 in order to feed a world population of 9 billion.