Tackling drought crucial in finding food crisis solution – UN

25 April 2008 – Addressing drought is essential in resolving the food crisis the world faces, the United Nations agency tasked with minimizing the threat posed by natural disasters said today.

Both drought and unsustainable water management have played a key role in the current problem, and managing drought risk is essential to finding a long-term solution to the crisis, according to a press release issued by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR).

Reports of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – last year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate – have shown unequivocally that the world is warming, almost certainly due to human activity, with potentially disastrous effects including worsening drought in some regions and heavier rainfall in others.

“Drought creeps, so we can outrun it,” said Sálvano Briceño, Director of the ISDR Secretariat. “But this will take a genuine mindset and policy shift towards the ethos that prevention is better than cure, and serious political and economic commitment to saving harvests and lives on a global economic level.”

Major food exporters such as Australia and Ukraine are experiencing the effects of drought, serving as examples of how climate change can trigger future food crises.

Water scarcity contributes to food scarcity, and, as the IPCC has pointed out, billions of people are at the risk of water stress by the end of the century unless carbon emissions are slashed and urgent adaptation actions are taken.

ISDR said that a greater emphasis must be placed on disaster risk, urging communities and nations to enhance their defences against global warming, drought and desertification through such measures as improved water management.

Yesterday, the head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned that soaring food prices across the globe are threatening the agency’s efforts to feed the world’s hungry.

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran warned of the “new face of hunger” – the millions being pushed into the urgent hunger category.

“We're also concerned because this isn't just an issue of hunger, but also an issue of instability,” she said, with protests against soaring food prices having been held in dozens of countries.


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