UN agencies call for global response to drought

By RTCC Staff

The UN has called on countries across the world to adopt effective national drought policies as a matter of urgency.

Current droughts in the USA and the Sahel region in Africa are putting pressure on world food prices – over a third of the US soya bean crop has been destroyed while corn production has also been hit.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) say the ‘vacuum’ that exists on drought policies in nearly every nation must be filled.

“Climate change is projected to increase the frequency, intensity and duration of droughts, with impacts on many sectors, in particular food, water and energy,” said Michel Jarraud, WMO Secretary General.

The US drought raised concerns about global food prices following crop failures (Source: tyleruk2000/Creative Commons)

The drought which has gripped much of the US– and the ripple effects on global food markets – shows how vulnerable countries worldwide can be to natural hazards, the UN agencies said.

Similar periods of extreme drought were seen in East Africa in late 2010 and through much of 2011 – resulting in a famine which caused an estimated 100,000 deaths.

A recent report from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has also highlighted a weak monsoon season in India, and the growing consensus amongst scientists is that such events will increase as the climate changes.

“The 2010 drought induced famine in the Greater Horn of Africa, the ongoing crisis in the Sahel region and the extensive drought in the USA show that developing and developed countries alike are vulnerable,” said Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.

“Effective long-term solutions to mitigate the effects of drought, and address desertification and land degradation urgently need to be mainstreamed in national development plans and policies.”

The WMO, the UNCCD and other agencies are organising a High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy to address these issues from 11-15 March 2013.

RTCC Video: Michel Jarraud, WMO Secretary General talks to RTCC at Rio+20 about the importance of building relationships between scientists and policy makers.

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