Preparing for drought (AlertNet)

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Preparing for drought cheaper than waiting for it – UN agencies

By Megan Rowling

LONDON (AlertNet) – U.N. agencies are calling on governments at a high-level meeting this week to start reacting more quickly to warnings of drought and put in place national policies to prepare for longer and worse droughts.

“In the next decade to come, drought will continue escalating in severity, in occurrence and in duration,” Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), told AlertNet from the conference in Geneva. “Preparedness and risk management cost-wise are unbeatable compared to relief and crisis management.”

Providing aid to people hit by a drought-related emergency can be up to eight times more expensive than the investment needed to prevent a crisis developing, Gnacadja said. Despite this, policy makers receiving early warnings about the onset of droughts are still not taking  precautions to help them manage the problem, he said.

“Despite our ability to predict drought, globally we still continue operating in crisis-management mode,” he said.

Droughts cause more deaths and displacement than cyclones, floods or earthquakes, making them the world’s most destructive natural hazard, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Since the 1970s, the land area affected by drought has doubled, with women, children and the elderly often paying the heaviest price.



Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.