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Drought - the quietest shade of loud

Drought quietly wreaks havoc on the only inhabitable planet we know of with far-reaching consequences for ecosystems, economies, and human lives. Unlike other disasters that attract media attention, droughts operate in silence, often going unnoticed and failing to provoke an immediate public and political response. This silent devastation perpetuates a cycle of neglect, leaving affected populations to bear the burden in isolation. As we witness the increasing frequency and severity of drought events, the data presented in this new edition of Drought in Numbers serve as a wake-up call. Each figure presented in part 1 tells parts of the greater story and paints a vivid picture of the multiple impacts of drought. From dwindling reservoir levels to declining crop yields, from loss of biological diversity to famines, the numbers reveal the “loud” reality of drought. The majority of data points in this report were published within the last 24 months. Drought knows no boundaries, affecting both developed and developing countries around the world. Its impact goes far beyond the immediate lack of water, as it engulfs communities and ecosystems in a pervasive web of interconnected destruction. While drought affects people from all walks of life, it has a disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities. Rural areas with limited access to water resources and inadequate infrastructure often bear the brunt of drought. Smallholder farmers, indigenous peoples and marginalized groups face immense challenges in sustaining their livelihoods during prolonged dry spells. Studies also revealed that women and girls carry the major burden of such impacts. Drought has serious economic consequences, both locally and globally. In agriculture-dependent regions, drought-related crop failures lead to food shortages and often skyrocketing prices. Livelihoods are destroyed, with farmers and pastoralists struggling to sustain their way of life. This affects local communities and can also potentially disrupt global food supply chains. The economic losses associated with drought are estimated to be in the billions of dollars annually. To combat the negative effects of drought, global drought resilience is essential. Part 2 of this publication shifts the focus away from the multiple negative and often cascading impacts to building resilience, which involves proactive measures that minimize vulnerability and enhance adaptive capacity. This encompasses various sectors, including agriculture, water management, and disaster preparedness. In addition, raising awareness and providing support to vulnerable communities can help build their resilience in times of drought. A critical aspect of building global drought resilience is the promotion of land restoration, sustainable land management and nature-positive agricultural practices. By adopting nature-positive farming techniques, such as drought-resistant crops, efficient irrigation methods, no-till and other soil conservation practices, farmers can reduce the impact of drought on their crops and incomes. Several findings in this report highlight this fact. Another key component of global drought resilience is efficient water management. These include the development of sustainable water supply systems, conservation measures and the promotion of water-efficient technologies. By investing in water infrastructure and improving water governance, countries can better withstand the challenges of drought. Furthermore, improving disaster preparedness and early warning systems is essential for global drought resilience. Timely and accurate information on drought conditions enables proactive decision-making and effective responses. Investing in meteorological monitoring, data collection and risk assessment tools can help governments and communities enhance drought resilience by responding quickly to drought emergencies and minimizing their negative impacts. In addition to these sector-specific measures, building global drought resilience requires international cooperation, knowledge sharing as well as environmental and social justice. Countries and organizations need to collaborate to exchange best practices, lessons learned and innovative solutions. By fostering solidarity, partnerships and creating platforms for dialogue, the global community can collectively address the challenges posed by droughts. The numbers presented in the new publication on drought speak volumes about the urgency of addressing this pressing issue. To combat the negative effects of drought, global drought resilience is not a matter of choice but a necessity. By prioritizing proactive measures, holistic landscape restoration, sustainable water management, regenerative agricultural practices and disaster preparedness, countries can reduce their vulnerability to drought and regenerate healthy ecological systems that all of humanity relies on for its well-being. By taking collective action, we can work to mitigate the negative impacts of drought and ensure a better future for generations to come.

Ibrahim Thiaw 


United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification 

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