Photo: Jörg Böthling

08.12.2017

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With global climate change progressing rapidly, droughts are predicted to increase in frequency, duration and severity. To combat the impacts, adequate vulnerability assessments, early warning-systems, and efficient disaster relief must be combined with the long-term investment in drought mitigation and adaptation. In the following article, our authors describe what such drought cycle management could look like.

Based on various characteristics such as severity, duration, spatial extent, loss of life, economic loss, social effect and long-term impacts, several studies find that drought is the most far-reaching of all natural disasters. In the context of poverty and food insecurity as well as political instability, drought and its associated impacts is responsible for more deaths and displacement of people than any other natural disaster. The adverse impacts of drought are particularly serious for the poorest and most vulnerable in the drylands of developing countries whose economy relies on rain-fed agriculture and pastoralism.

The channels through which drought affects these vurnerable households are multifaceted and complex: they include lack of water for people and livestock, pasture and crops, energy, food availability and the rise in food prices, loss of lives and livelihoods, and assets. They fuel local conflicts around natural resources. And, while it is contested whether it leads to or amplifies larger conflicts and mass migration in the short run, there can be no doubt that in the long run, an increase in the frequency and severity of droughts would do exactly that.

EssentiallY natural, socially constructed

The reasons for the emergence of droughts are essentially natural – droughts have accompanied humankind from the very beginning and have been conceptualised one of the apocalyptic riders.

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