STORY: Drought ‘Is The New Pandemic’- UNDRR
TRT: 02 min 25s
SOURCE: UNTV CH
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 17 JUNE 2021 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
Drought is akin to a new pandemic, warns UN’s top disaster reduction official
Drought is on the verge of becoming the next pandemic, the UN’s top official for disaster reduction said on Thursday, in a call for concerted action and new transboundary alliances to tackle the growing global threat.
The appeal from Mami Mizutori – the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction – came as the UN agency she heads warned that drought affects more people than any other slow onset disaster.
The problem “will determine the course of human development in the coming years as the climate emergency worsens”, said the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).
“Within the next 80 years, 129 countries will experience increased exposure to drought due to climate change impact alone and an additional 23 countries due to population growth and another 38 due to the interaction of population growth and climate change impact,” Ms. Mizutori said, speaking via Zoom during a press conference in Geneva.
“If you just look at these numbers, there’s a really big number of countries will be exposed to drought. So this is a global issue, something like we’re seeing as a pandemic.”
In a special report on drought by UNDRR, the agency insisted that its impact is widespread and underestimated on societies, ecosystems and economies.
The phenomenon affects millions of people and many sectors and domains – such as agricultural production, public water supply, energy production, waterborne transportation, tourism, health and biodiversity, all of which contribute to food insecurity, poverty and inequality, it noted.
While some of the world’s most vulnerable communities are already affected by drought today, UNDRR warned that increasing temperatures and disrupted rainfall patterns threaten everyone and would require comprehensive mitigation plans by all countries.
“As the world moves towards being two degrees Celsius warmer, urgent action is required to better understand and more effectively manage drought risk
to reduce the devastating toll on human lives and livelihoods,” the Office said.
Echoing that message, Ms. Muzutori maintained that drought “can be the next catastrophe and there is no vaccine; if we do not act now, our exposure to drought risk threatens to derail our progress towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development”.
The threat is already present in highly developed regions, including western Europe, said Dr. Roger Pulwarty, Senior Scientist, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: “We are seeing in places such as - and these cases are within the report – such as the Danube basin – drought and an increasing number of them affecting irrigation, hydropower generation and most critically, transportation, and we saw that on the Rhine as well itself.”
Drought should no longer viewed as affecting “simply agriculture”, Dr Pulwarty said, noting that “several developed regions” had seen a significant impact on their ability to export products and services, along with “direct impacts on the functioning and the supply chains on which all societies rely”.
Although many Governments were unwilling to invest in drought risk mitigation because “there is no glory” in it, Ms. Mizutori insisted that they should, as prevention “has far lower cost in humanitarian, financial and environmental ways than reaction and response.”
Among its recommendations, the UNDRR report underlines the merit of establishing a new global mechanism to support countries wanting to address transboundary drought risk, promote innovation and adaptive governance.
“Drought resilience partnerships at the national and local levels will be critical to managing drought in a world where rainfall will become ever more unpredictable,” Ms. Mizutori insisted.