UN pushes for effective drought policies

UNDroughts cause the deaths and displacement of more people than cyclones, floods and earthquakes combined, making it the world’s most destructive natural hazard.

Yet while droughts are expected to increase in frequency, area and intensity, due to climate change, effective drought management policies are missing in most parts of the world.

Three United Nations institutions have now joined forces to promote the development and adoption of practical and proactive policies at the national level to make drought-prone countries more resilient.

This was contained in a press statement signed by Kimberly Sullivan, Communications and Publications Officer of Natural Resources Department, FAO, and copied to the Ghana News Agency on Tuesday.

It said the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and other partners are holding a High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policy from March 11-15, in Geneva to focus on drought preparedness and management policies.

The statement quoted Michel Jarraud, WMO Secretary-General as saying: “Since time immemorial, drought has been a feature of the natural variability of our climate; and the frequency, intensity and duration of droughts are expected to rise in several parts of the world as a result of climate change, with an increasing human and economic toll”.

“Despite being predictable, drought is the most costly and the deadliest disaster of our time and the decision to mitigate drought is ultimately political,” it cited Luc Gnacadja, UNCCD Executive Secretary.

It said governments of all drought-prone countries need to adopt, mainstream and operationalize national drought policies, based on the principles of early warning, preparedness and risk management.

It said “the cost of crisis management far exceeds that of risk management and early action and we should not wait until the next drought, causing famine and claiming human lives.”

“More extreme and frequent droughts resulting from climate change are having devastating food security impacts, especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world.

“To buck this trend, we must build resilient, ‘drought-resistant’ communities and this means not simply reacting after the rains fail, but investing over the long-term, so that when drought does hit, people and food systems can weather the blow,” the statement quoted José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General.

It said since the 1970s, the land area affected by drought has doubled; with women, children and the aged often paying the heaviest price.

It noted that today, 168 countries claim to be affected by desertification; a process of land degradation in the dry lands that affects food production and is exacerbated by drought.

The statement said the High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policy brings together world leaders, government decision-makers, development agencies, leading scientists and researchers, and government leaders whose country has been repeatedly hit by devastating droughts, most recently in 2011-2012.

It said the purpose of the High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policy is to encourage countries to move from crisis management to disaster risk reduction – an approach already successfully embraced for hazards such as tropical cyclones and floods.

Source: GNA

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