Climate-driven drought has risen 29% in 20 years

Since 2000, the number and duration of droughts have increased by 29%. That’s just one of many worrying facts revealed by a new report from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Drought In Numbers, 2022 has been published in the framework of the COP15 of the UNCCD that takes place from May 9 to 20 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The document is also categorical in saying that humanity is “at a crossroads” when it comes to managing drought, and that mitigation must be accelerated “urgently, using all the tools we can”.

The report is a compendium of data that comes just over a month from Drought Day, June 17, and is an urgent call for a full global commitment to drought preparedness and resilience in all countries . of the world. Its mission is to help inform the negotiations of the 196 member states of the UNCCD, which will be published on May 20 at the end of COP15.

The facts that transcend in the document are irrefutable and numerous: more than 1,400 million people were affected by the drought between 2000 and 2019. This makes this meteorological phenomenon the disaster that affects the second largest number of people, after the floods.

“All the facts and figures in this publication point in the same direction: an upward trajectory in the duration of droughts and the severity of the impacts, affecting not only human societies but also the ecological systems on which humanity depends. survival of all life, including that of our own species,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD at the time of the report’s release.

The data drought

In addition to warning about the 29% increase in droughts and their duration, the document points out that from 1970 to 2019, weather, climate and water hazards accounted for 50% of disasters and 45% of disaster-related deaths, mainly in developing countries. The UNCCD states that droughts account for 15% of natural disasters, but they claimed the highest number of human victims, approximately 650,000 deaths between 1970 and 2019. It also warns of economic losses: from 1998 to 2017, droughts caused losses of world currencies of approximately 124,000 million dollars (about 118,700 million euros).In 2022, more than 2.3 billion people will face water stress; Almost 160 million children are exposed to severe and prolonged droughts.

“We are at a crossroads,” Thiaw said. “We need to be solution-oriented rather than continuing destructive actions, believing that marginal change can cure systemic failure.” In the coming decades, 129 countries will experience an increase in drought exposure primarily due to climate change alone: ​​23 due to population growth and 38 due to the interaction between climate change and population growth. If global warming reaches 3 degrees Celsius by 2100, as some predict, drought losses could be five times higher than today, with the largest increase in the Mediterranean and Atlantic regions of Europe.

If action is not taken to combat drought, the report says that by 2030, an estimated 700 million people will be at risk of being displaced by drought. By 2040 it is estimated that one in four children will live in areas with extreme water scarcity. Finally, by 2050, droughts could affect more than three-quarters of the world’s population. Added to this it is estimated that between 4,800 and 5,700 million people will live in areas with water scarcity for at least one month each year, compared to the current 3,600 million. In that same year, up to 216 million people could be forced to migrate, largely due to drought in combination with other factors, such as water scarcity, declining crop productivity, rising sea levels, and overpopulation.

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Impacts on India

Drought is the disaster that affects the second largest number of people, after floods. In India, it was estimated that the effect of severe droughts reduced gross domestic product by 2-5% from 1998 to 2017.

The burden of collecting water, especially in drylands, falls disproportionately on women (72%) and girls (9%), who, in some cases, spend up to 40% of their caloric intake on transporting water.

Droughts have profound, widespread and underestimated impacts on societies, ecosystems and economies, accounting for only a fraction of actual losses.


“One of the best and most comprehensive solutions island restoration, which addresses many of the underlying factors of degraded water cycles and loss of soil fertility. We must build and rebuild our landscapes better, mimicking nature wherever possible and creating functional ecological systems,” Thiaw said.

Beyond restoration, the UNCCD Executive Secretary added that there is a need for a paradigm shift from ‘reactive’ and ‘crisis-based’ approaches to ‘proactive’ and ‘crisis-based’ approaches to drought management. risks’ involving coordination, communication and cooperation, fueled by sufficient financial and political resources.

Some of the needs raised in the document are concerted policies and associations at all levels (governmental, business and personal), as well as the development and implementation of integrated action plans against drought. The need for sustainable and efficient agricultural management techniques that produce more food on less land and with less water is emphasized. As well as changes on a personal level with food, forage and fibre, in search of plant-based diets to reduce or eliminate the consumption of animals.

Regarding technology, the UNCCD affirms that effective early warning systems that work across borders and the deployment of new technologies need to be established. It suggests satellite monitoring and artificial intelligence guide decisions with greater precision. It also calls for regular monitoring and reporting to ensure continuous improvement in drought management.

Monetarily, it calls for mobilizing sustainable finance to improve resilience to drought at the local level and invest in soil health. The UNCCD says that to achieve solutions it is necessary to include and mobilize farmers, local communities, businesses, consumers, investors, entrepreneurs and, above all, young people.

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