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Effects on Drought

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Drought has long been recognized as one of the most insidious causes of human misery. It has today the unfortunate distinction of being the natural disaster that annually claims the most victims. Its ability to cause widespread misery is actually increasing. While generally associated with semiarid climates, drought can occur in areas that normally enjoy adequate rainfall and moisture levels. In the broadest sense, any lack of water for the normal needs of agriculture, livestock, industry, or human population may be termed a drought. The cause may be lack of supply, contamination of supply, inadequate storage or conveyance facilities, or abnormal demand. Drought, as commonly understood, is a condition of climatic dryness that is severe enough to reduce soil moisture and water below the minimums necessary for sustaining plant, animal, and human life. Drought is usually accompanied by hot, dry winds and may be followed by damaging floods. More socially relevant than technically correct is the definition used by Ari Toubo Eibrahim, the minister of agriculture in Niger, who has said that a drought is "Not as much water as the people need." Examples Chad, the largest landlocked country of the African Sahel region, suffered greatly from the prolonged drought of the 1970s. Based on a 60 percent reduction in cereal grain output and 50 percent loss in the livestock herd, the dollar damage was assessed at more than U.S. $84 million. Because of inadequate data, the actual number of starvation victims and displaced persons is unknown. However, it is estimated that more than 900,000 people were severely affected by the drought. Contributing to the problems created by the drought, the growing populations of humans and livestock put excessive pressure on the already barren land. This led to overgrazing, continuous cropping, and lowering of the groundwater table. Thus, the sharply lower rainfall of 1972 and 1973 served to increase a degenerative process that was already underway. ...read more.


Reconstruction should be viewed as an opportunity to accelerate development work. It is an ideal time to introduce improved animal husbandry techniques, rangeland management, water resource development schemes and erosion control measures. Famine The most serious impact of droughts can be that of creating famine. Its importance requires separate discussion within this lesson. It should be regarded as a parallel disaster that will have parallel implications for preparedness, mitigation, and relief activities. Famine is a disaster that occurs as the result primarily of drought, but it can also follow pestilence, windstorm, and human- induced catastrophes such as war and civil strife. Starvation is the result of food shortage. Famine and food emergencies are common events particularly in Africa and Asia, despite many intense and continuing efforts to address the problems. Drought- related famines appear to occur with cyclical frequency in many parts of Africa, both along the edges of deserts and in certain rain forest regions. Famines rarely occur unexpectedly. Food stocks are not often depleted or destroyed suddenly and simultaneously in large communities. Crops in the fields may be destroyed quickly by pests such as locusts, but grain stocks may be rendered totally unfit for human consumption only as a result of moisture damage, infestation or contamination. Nongrain commodities are more vulnerable to damage and loss, especially those that cannot be stored without modern technology such as refrigeration. More frequently, famine is predictable, In other words, the creeping onset of crop failure or food emergency is predictable from a series of meteorologic, agricultural, political and/or economic indicators that may be monitored continuously. This process of famine preparedness through surveillance is a major function of the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquartered in Rome. Where international concern is not hampered by political constraints, the early warning system has begun to work relatively well in recent years, and international appeals for food assistance have been mounted successfully on many occasions. ...read more.


Priorities should be established and measures to protect water supplies should be taken immediately. In some cases, researchers have noted that if water supplies had been rationed and allocated so that the high-priority areas had received sufficient water, the effects of the droughts would have been minimal, and shortages could have been met through supplies from outside the affected area. The importance of responding to the disaster where it is occurring. If early warning signs are not recognized and a drought reaches advanced stages, migrations of people and animals normally occur. In the past there was a tendency to supply relief to the drought victims at the terminus of their migration, and not at its origin. This served to draw more people out of the affected areas, increasing the problem. The lesson was that relief supplies should be provided at the point where the drought is occurring. This would enable people to stay in the area, thus providing a work force to respond to the drought. The importance of encouraging an early return of migrants. Relief operations for persons displaced by droughts should be of limited duration. Such operations should attempt to encourage these people to return as soon as possible to their homes. Experience has shown that if they do not return within several months, they will probably never return. The need to focus on agriculture, animals and water supply. Past operations have overemphasized relief. Relief operations must be balanced by immediate and wide-spread attacks on the causes of the drought and by measures to reduce the impact. Emphasis must be placed on improving agriculture, saving herds, and improving and expanding water resources. The need to avoid camps. For most relief agencies, the easiest way to distribute a variety of aid is by centralizing the distribution and establishing a refugee camp. Too often, however, these camps become permanent settlements. As the primary goal is to encourage people to return, relief efforts should be focused on providing the relief to the people in their own communities. This means that a great deal of sophistication is required in the relief logistics system.8 ...read more.

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