Angolas Drought
The drought in Angola is the worst the country has seen in four decades. Angola’s drought has initiated widespread food shortages and hunger among Angolans, touching as many as 1.3 million people in late September 2021. The World Food Programme (WFP) has recognized the dangers of the drought and its impact on Angola. As a result, it has begun to provide
nutrition support in the country.

 

The Drought in South-West Angola


Angola’s rainy season typically occurs from
November through April. The remaining months of the year are the “colder” season, and rainfall dwindles during that time. However, during the 2020-2021 rainy season, fewer than 100 millimeters of rain fell per month. 


Based on averages from previous years, the predicted rainfall shows little to no rain predicted in December, which was often one of the months to receive the most rain in Angola. The Cunene, Huila and Namibe provinces have been bearing the brunt of Angola’s drought’s impacts. Climate experts have predicted that Angola’s drought will persist, and it already began impacting the agricultural and livestock sectors in Angola
 in April 2021


The Impact of Drought in Angola


Angola’s drought has caused a loss of up to
40% of agricultural output. Most of the farms in Angola are small, communal farms designed to serve communities. The farms typically produce vegetables and fruits, such as cassava, bananas, potatoes, maize, sweet potatoes, citrus and pineapples. All these crops require low-to-medium levels of water, which under normal conditions, is not an issue.

The drought has increased food insecurity across Angola. The diminished crops and livestock have left more than 100,000 children under the age of 5 years old hungry. The number could increase over the next year.

Many in the workforce work in the agricultural sector, accounting for more than half of the labor force at approximately 50.2%. The lowest pay for an agricultural worker in Angola is 66,100 AOA, roughly $110 USD per month. 

Many live in extreme poverty in Angola. With the low agricultural output, farmers are often unable to earn wages. As a result, poverty, which reached 88.5% in 2018, could rise further by the close of 2021. 


The World Food Programme’s Assistance


Angola’s drought has brought distinct challenges to the country, but even though the situation seems dire, the World Food Programme (WFP) has outlined plans to provide resources to the country, such as food and nutrition support.
The WFP will likely set up food distribution centers. Additionally, the organization has analyzed the regions that the drought most impacted in order to organize relief efforts. 


When Angola’s drought began, the WFP saw that its assistance would be necessary and initially collaborated with schools to provide food and nutrition to children, easing the burden for parents. However, the issue of food has extended beyond school. In fact, almost daily, children in Angola struggle to secure food. 


The WFP is working with the officials representing the
Angolan provinces to expand nutrition activities and outreach to maximize the effectiveness of their work. The WFP is a branch of the United Nations (U.N.), serving as the world’s largest aid relief organization. With funding from the U.N., WFP plans to secure $6.3 million to pay for the services and supplies to assist Angola.


The WFP’s aid will not undergo strict coordination and organization by WFP alone. The assistance will help Angola’s government regulate food security and nutrition mechanisms within each province to limit the
necessity of WFP’s assistance later.


The WFP’s work in response to
Angola’s drought will help the Angolan government build resilience and hopefully become less reliant on aid from organizations, such as the WFP.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in AngolaThe catalyzation of food insecurity is causing around 6 million people to fall into hunger in Angola, according to UNICEF. The number of people going hungry in Angola, however, continues to rise due to the most severe drought since 1981 in conjunction with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The spread of droughts, especially in Southern Angola, caused the death of 1 million cattle. This created surges of poor malnutrition and severe illnesses. Despite this, hope exists for those suffering from hunger in Angola.

Drought

The severe drought in Angola has continued spreading for almost three years now, traumatically affecting hunger in Angola. Crop production has decreased by nearly 40%, forcing more families into poverty. The drought has, within only three months in Cunene, Angola, tripled levels of food insecurity. The growing scarcity of food and heightening hunger of Angolans is pushing them to seek refuge in proximate countries such as Namibia.

Pedro Henrique Kassesso, a 112-year-old man, can attest that this three-year-long drought has been the worst he has ever experienced in Angola. The drought has affected almost 500,000 children. Not only has food insecurity heightened, but school dropout rates have risen due to increasing socioeconomic troubles. Hunger in Angola has forced children to put aside their education to support their families in collecting food and water.

Longing for Land

Former Angolan communal farmers are longing to get land back from commercial cattle farmers. According to Amnesty International, the Angolan government gives the land to commercial cattle farmers. Commercial cattle farmers have taken 67% of the land in Gambos, Angola. The battle for land has exasperated the hunger levels of communal Angolan citizens who have been reliant on their land and livestock for survival. The combination of loss of land and drought equates to millions of Angolan citizens ending up in poverty.

Despite the drought and rising food insecurity in Angola, people from neighboring countries are seeking refuge in this nation. As of 2017, 36,000 people have undergone displacement from the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and found refuge in Angola. Because of asylum seekers and refugees fleeing to Angola, the nation’s population is rapidly growing. Angola’s population is growing by 1 million people every year, according to the World Population Review. As a host country to asylum seekers, battles for land, ongoing drought and rapid population growth, more people are succumbing to poverty and hunger in Angola.

Hope on the Horizon

Despite the surging levels of food insecurity in Angola, hope is rising on the horizon. In fact, the government of Japan donated $1 million toward United Nations agencies that serve to uplift Angolan citizens who have succumbed to poverty especially due to the drought and the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy of Angola. The donation from Japan, along with the funds raised to end hunger in Angola by the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Food Programme (WFP) projects to at last tackle the issue of malnutrition and hunger in Angola.

– Nora Zaim-Sassi
Photo: Flickr

Brazil’s Recent Drought Impacts Coffee and Orange ProductionBrazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee and oranges. The country produces around a third of the world’s coffee and orange supply. In addition, Brazil exports the largest amount of Arabica coffee beans and orange juice. However, with the recent drought in Brazil, the crops that rely on irrigation, such as orange trees and coffee plants, are suffering. Coffee and orange production is declining, impacting the supply chain of both products around the world and putting a heavy burden on Brazilian farmers.

Impact on Coffee and Orange Crops

Brazil is currently facing one of the worst droughts in the country’s history. The agricultural regions in Brazil, particularly the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, are generally tropical, but they are suffering from dry soil and scarce water reservoirs. Brazilian farmers started turning on irrigation systems for orange and coffee crops early, in fear of the lack of rainfall and limited water reservoirs with the dry season approaching. However, coffee production is taking even more of a hit due to 2021 being a “limited year.” Coffee production runs on a biennial cycle, meaning while there will be a higher production of coffee during one year, the next year will yield a lower amount of coffee from the same trees.

This year’s crop production indicates that if the drought continues, it will severely impact the orange and coffee supply. The past season’s orange production decreased by 31% in comparison to the last season and estimates project that coffee production for the 2021-2022 crop cycle will drop by the same percentage. More specifically, Arabica coffee may see a decline in production of “between 32.4% and 39.1%.” With coffee trees not receiving enough moisture and orange groves experiencing ripeness inconsistencies, coffee and orange production is decreasing.

Overall Consequences of Drought

With the lack of coffee and orange production, the supply of these crops is limited. Limited supply and high demand are driving up the prices of both products, particularly coffee. The prices going up for these popular crops indicates that the products will be more inaccessible due to expensive price points.  Already, wholesale coffee prices have surged at a record high in comparison to recent years; the rate for Arabica coffee reached almost $1.70 per pound this year, which is a 60% increase from 2020. Along with higher coffee price points, orange prices are expected to rise and there may be an orange juice shortage.

Overall, Brazil is a large agricultural hub, not only producing coffee and oranges but also other vital crops, such as sugar cane and corn. Therefore, “the drought is also hurting key farming states, at a time when the agricultural sector has been driving Brazil’s economic recovery, with growth of 5.7% in the first quarter.” However, the drought not only affects the supply chain but also the farmers themselves. Farmers are selling coffee for very low prices and have had to even renegotiate prices with traders. The drought negatively affects everyone in the supply chain, however, farmers and their families depend on the income they get from selling crops.

The MAIS Program Provides a Solution

While there is no solution to directly combat the drought in Brazil, there are organizations that help farmers with agricultural technology and even an organization that helps farmers when it comes to climate crises. The MAIS Program uses different strategies in order “to help farmers plan for drought-intensive periods.” Some of its initiatives include modules with the ability to provide income to farmers with technical assistance. The organization provides solutions to farmers, including using the Opuntia-ficus cactus “as a substitute for corn and a biophysical water and food storage system” and planting drought-resistant trees. This program is designed to help farmers adapt to changes in weather and ensure food security in Brazil.

Every dollar that goes into the program generates $7 in the Jacuipe Basin of Brazil, among other impacts. Programs like MAIS help farmers deal with the impact of weather on crops, including the drought in Brazil that is affecting coffee and orange production.

– Karuna Lakhiani
Photo: Pixabay

Tiger Reserve in IndiaThe opening of a tiger reserve along the Vaigai River in India offers hope that more conservation efforts will replenish the dried-up river. Once a vast, plentiful river that farmers relied on for crop cultivation and drinking water, this body of water has largely dried up. Many citizens and conservationists look forward to the preservation efforts now that India has directed efforts into preserving the surrounding land. Hopefully, the new tiger reserve will improve water insecurity and agriculture in India through the revival of the Vaigai River. 

What Happened to the Vaigai River?

The Vaigai River is dry for almost 300 days a year due to poor maintenance over the last 30 years. Sewage drainage and insufficient silt removal have changed both the quality and quantity of the water. Moreover, drought and inadequate rainfall have also been contributors to the depletion of the river. In fact, this year was the first time that the Vaigai Dam had enough water to release in 12 years. Additionally, the insufficient rainfall can be partially attributed to the rapid deforestation India has faced. 

Further, the sewage in the water has made the river a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Moreover, India carries 2% of global malaria deaths and 85.2% of Southeast Asia’s malaria burden. The country has made significant strides in malaria case reduction. However, this issue puts residents along the river at risk for infection.

Why the River Is Important

Residents in three districts receive their daily drinking water from the Vaigai Dam. This is significant as less than 50% of the Indian population has access to clean drinking water. Also, at least two-thirds of all Indian districts face water insecurity issues due to groundwater depletion and drought.

In 1959, the Madurai District built the Vaigai Dam to provide drinking water and combat water insecurity for farmers, who rely on the river to irrigate crops such as rice, cotton, peas, black gram and sorghum.

How the Tiger Reserve Can Help

On February 8, 2021, a government order declared two major wildlife sanctuaries would be combined to create a fifth tiger reserve along the Vaigai River. This new reserve will be called the Srivilliputhur Megamalai Tiger Reserve.

Once the reserve is operational, poaching, encroachments and grazing will be outlawed. This will preserve the surrounding land and the river. Experts except the tiger reserve will be in the forests of Meghamalai. This location is ideal as it will protect the land from deforestation and increase rainfall and water flow by acting as a watershed.

The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 will be used to enforce the regulations now that the land surrounding the river is considered protected land. This means poor silt removal practices, sewage drainage and poor maintenance by any government official can result in a fine or jail time. This gives Indian citizens the ability to hold their government accountable for the mismanagement of the river.

A forest official told The Hindu News that “with this new tiger reserve, Vaigai river and its catchment areas will be fully protected. The river, battling for its life, will be saved. This will help in the long-term sustenance of people in several southern districts.”

Looking Forward

This new tiger reserve in India is one of the first protective orders for the land surrounding the Vaigai river. Farmers, conservationists and citizens alike look forward to seeing the Vaigai river return to its former glory, alleviating water insecurity and aiding crop cultivation.

– Camdyn Knox
Photo: Pixabay

Food insecurity crisis in SomaliaSomalia’s climate consists of sporadic periods of intense rainfall between long periods of drought. So far in 2021, a devastating mix of severe droughts, intense floods and locust infestations in Somalia have devastated crop production and livestock herds, leading to a hunger crisis. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the previously high rates of poverty in the country and have contributed to the food insecurity crisis in Somalia. USAID is aiming to combat the hunger crisis in Somalia by providing food assistance while also targeting assistance efforts to limit malnutrition among children and pregnant women.

Causes of the Food Insecurity Crisis in Somalia

Typically, heavy rains strike Somalia between April and June and again between October and December. During the two rainy seasons, extreme rainfall and flooding regularly displace Somalis across the country. However, in 2021, the rainy season ended in May instead of June. This early end caused intense droughts in Somalia.

Rainfall in some areas of Somalia has amounted to only half of the year-to-date average. As a result, deficit farmers in the south and northwest of Somalia have not been able to access water supplies adequate to plant Somalia’s staple crops. Moreover, pastoral households’ inadequate access to water has decreased the size and productivity of livestock herds. The subsequent meat, milk and crop shortage might surge food prices in Somalia.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network projected that the Somali yield of cereal crops in 2021 will be up to 40% less than the yearly average. The drought has already decreased the food and water intake for farmers and pastoralists across Somalia, and low crop and livestock yields in the late summer harvest will lead to lower incomes for farmers and pastoralists. This will limit the purchasing power of Somalis employed in the agriculture sector. Altogether, the drought and subsequent low-yield harvests could extend the risk of a food insecurity crisis in Somalia past the summer.

The State of the Somali Food Insecurity Crisis

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) scale is a system that governments, non-governmental organizations and the U.N. uses to analyze the severity of food insecurity situations. The IPC scale ranges from minimal (IPC Phase 1) to famine (IPC Phase 5). By the middle of 2021, the IPC expects 2.7 million Somalis to encounter at least the crisis level of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3). Specifically, the analysis expects 2.25 million Somalis to be at the crisis level of food insecurity while another 400,100 will be at the emergency level of food insecurity (IPC Phase 4).

COVID-19 in Somalia

While the COVAX initiative and the Somali Federal Government have started the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 in Somalia, the virus continues to devastate the fragile economy. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the poverty rate (percent of the population below $1.90/day, 2011 PPP) in Somalia was at 69%. The poverty rate among Somalis in rural areas was at 72%.

Further, the worldwide COVID-19 induced lockdowns have limited employment opportunities for Somalis working in foreign countries. Consequently, Somalis working internationally are not able to send much money back to their families in Somalia, which heavily supports consumption in the country. Moreover, Somali businesses have reduced their full-time staff by an average of 31% since the pandemic first struck Somalia.

Lastly, a global reduction in demand for Somali livestock has decreased Somali livestock exports by 50% since the beginning of the pandemic, which further weakens the income of already impoverished Somali pastoralists. Thus, the global economic downturn resulting from COVID-19 threatens to intensify the food insecurity crisis in Somalia.

US Aid to Somalia

On June 24, 2021, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a pledge of $20 million in assistance to Somalia. USAID’s aid pledge to Somalia was part of a larger USAID plan to provide a total of $97 million to African countries to combat the health and socioeconomic ramifications of the pandemic. The U.S. aid plan will focus on tackling the food insecurity crisis in Somalia and will supply the country with staple crops like sorghum and yellow split peas. The funding also aims to limit the malnutrition of children and pregnant women.

The aid package builds on a U.S. commitment of $14.7 million in June 2021 to provide drinking water, fight malnutrition and support victims of gender-based violence.

While Somalia’s struggle with poverty and malnutrition is a longstanding and complicated issue, assistance from the U.S. and the rest of the global community could prevent a famine in the short term and boost the country’s economic development in the long term.

– Zachary Fesen
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian crisis in MadagascarThree years of drought and a sharp recession caused by COVID-19 have left a third of Southern Madagascar’s population unable to put food on the table. Extreme malnutrition rates are on the rise and many children are having to beg to help families survive. Immediate action is needed to avert this humanitarian crisis in Madagascar.

Food Insecurity and Malnutrition

In southern Madagascar, the situation has been progressively worsening. The number of people needing humanitarian assistance has doubled to 1.3 million due to “famine-like conditions.” The World Food Programme (WFP) stated that successive droughts and a lack of jobs linked to COVID-19 restrictions are to blame. With 300,000 people in need of safe-living support, governments and humanitarian organizations need to act immediately. Weary communities have few resources to fall back on.

Furthermore, many people have had to leave their homes to search for food and job opportunities. Approximately 1.14 million people, or 35% of Madagascar’s population, are food insecure. This figure is nearly double what it was last year due to the second wave of COVID-19. The pandemic resulted in fewer seasonal employment opportunities between January and April 2021, which affected families relying on this form of income.

Children are the most vulnerable to the food crisis. Many children have dropped out of school to beg for food on the streets. By the end of April 2021, more than 135,00 children were estimated to be acutely malnourished in some way, with 27,000 children between the ages of 6 to 59 months suffering from severe acute malnourishment.

Drought Conditions

According to the WFP, Madagascar’s susceptibility to climate shocks is contributing to the ongoing crisis. A WFP official stated that rains usually fall between November and December. However, the entire area only received one day of rain in December 2020. Thunderstorms have also been wreaking havoc on the fields, destroying and burying the crops.

With markets closed because of COVID-19 restrictions and people forced to sell their possessions to survive, the U.N. warned that drought conditions are expected to persist well into 2021. The anticipated conditions are forcing more people to flee their homes in search of food and jobs. WFP South Africa and Indian Ocean State Region Director Lola Castro explained that “the population of the South relies on casual labor and goes to urban areas or to the fields to really have additional funds that will allow them to survive during the lean season.” However, she noted that “this year there was no labor, they moved around without finding any labor anywhere, both in urban areas or in the rural areas, due to the drought and due to the COVID lockdown.”

Humanitarian Aid

Humanitarian organizations delivered assistance across the Grand Sud, the southernmost region of Madagascar, between January and March 2021. Organizations supplied food aid to 700,000 people and improved access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for 167,200 people. Furthermore, 93,420 children and pregnant and lactating mothers received dietary care and services. The WFP also provided food assistance to almost 500,000 severely food insecure people in the nine hardest-hit districts in the south. Given the rapidly deteriorating situation, it intends to scale up its assistance to reach almost 900,000 of the most vulnerable by June 2021.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and persistent droughts, the humanitarian crisis in Madagascar is worsening. The country needs more support to fund lifesaving food and cash distributions as well as malnutrition treatment programs. Moving forward, it is essential that the government and humanitarian organizations make addressing the humanitarian crisis in Madagascar a priority.

Aining Liang

Photo: Flickr

Drought in Taiwan
For the first time in nearly 60 years, not a single typhoon hit the island of Taiwan in 2020. With no typhoons and little rain otherwise, the current drought in Taiwan is the worst the country has endured in decades.

Although droughts occur every few years, the current drought in Taiwan has brought water levels in the country to alarmingly low levels. Reservoirs in the country are very dry, with some reaching less than 10% total capacity. So far, the drought has lasted for more than 18 months. With 2021’s rainy season already nearly over, the end for Taiwanese citizens and farmlands is nowhere in sight.

Affecting the Farmers

Doughts have hit Taiwanese farmers particularly hard. The Taiwanese government has stopped irrigating more than 74,000 hectares of farmland. This was to conserve water and protect the island’s booming microchip manufacturing infrastructure. Manufacturing giant Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) reportedly uses up to 156 million liters of water daily while recycling an estimated 86% of consumed water. Farmers have transitioned from traditional crops including rice to low-water crops that include watermelons and sunflowers.

Poverty rates in Taiwan are low in comparison with poverty rates globally — with roughly 1% of the population “poor or belonging to the low-income bracket.” However, the drought in Taiwan will hit the rural poor the hardest. Poor farmers will suffer as landowners accept government subsidies in exchange for leaving farmland fallow. The farmers are unable to speak their minds for fear of angering the landowners.

Manufacturing giants including TSMC can use a portion of the profits to transport truckloads of water from rainier regions in Taiwan. However, farmers have had to resign to sipping tea and bicycling around town as the lands crack under the beating sun. As one Taiwanese farmer, Hsieh Tsai-shan, told the New York Times, “being a farmer is truly the worst.” 

The Struggle to Balance

The historic drought in Taiwan has highlighted shortcomings in the country’s handling of water across the nation. While some chide Taiwanese households for consuming too much water due to low water prices, others clarify that rainfall in Taiwan has been decreasing steadily over the past few decades.

The government has been working hard to address the drought efficiently. Taiwan depends heavily on microchip manufacturers, including TSMC, as a country. The TSMC accounts for “more than [90%] of the world’s manufacturing capacity for the most advanced chips.” Because of this, the Taiwanese government has authorized the companies to continue working within normal capacity. However, the companies recycle water at high percentages. Recycling does not fully make up the 63 million gallons of water TSMC consumed in 2019 across all of its manufacturing facilities. 

Restoring the Water

The allowances for manufacturing companies come at a cost. The recent drought in Taiwan has decimated its farming industry. It is not unusual for the government to shut off irrigation on a large scale in order to save water. However, it has only been six years since the last shut-off and farmers are struggling as a result.

The government is not only helping manufacturers including TSMC. It is also helping farmers by:

  • Offering farmers subsidies in exchange for not irrigating their fields
  • Looking into imposing extra fees on Taiwan’s 1,800 water-intensive factories
  • Drilling extra wells to create more water sources
  • Researching to fix leaky pipes, which can result in the loss of up to 14% of water in transport
  • Dumping cloud-seeding chemicals in hopes of triggering downpours

Only time will tell how long this crushing drought in Taiwan will last. Through the Taiwan government’s work, it may be able to overcome its shockingly low poverty rate of 1%, or at the very least, prevent poverty from rising. 

Thomas McCall
Photo: Flickr

Drought In TaiwanThe country of Taiwan, the world’s largest producer of computer chips, also known as semiconductors, is experiencing a massive drought. Decreased water supply has led to the government’s rationing of water, resulting in greater water prioritization for chip-producing companies than for struggling farmers in the region. The effects of the drought in Taiwan have gained the attention of many Instagram influencers who have posted information about it in order to spread awareness.

Drought in Taiwan

The most recent drought in Taiwan is the result of a dry spell that has lasted 18 months. Under normal circumstances, Taiwan is considered subtropical as the area usually receives plenty of rain throughout the year and typhoons are typical for the region. In the summer of 2020, however, Taiwan did not experience any typhoons and rainfall rates decreased significantly.

In the Baoshan Second Reservoir found in Hsinchu County, water levels dropped by 96.2% from March 12, 2019, to March 12, 2021. The state of the reservoir and other central water storage facilities in Taiwan prove just how serious the drought has become. A study conducted by the Research Center for Environmental Changes predicts a 50% chance of a 20% water inadequacy in the future, specifically in the Banxin and Taoyuan regions.

Drought and the Semiconductor Industry

As Taiwan is the world’s largest producer of semiconductor chips, companies rely heavily on the water supply to continue running since the chips require copious amounts of water to be cleaned and manufactured. Due to water shortages, the Taiwanese Government decided to stop irrigating thousands of hectares of crops and instead grant more water to the semiconductor chip industry. The government is compensating farmers, but farmers still risk losing clientele and damaging their brand reputation. Furthermore, young farmers who were encouraged to go into agriculture feel as though they have wasted investments in land and equipment.

The worldwide demand for the chips has caused companies in the United States, the U.K. and Australia to raise prices on cars containing microchips as the need for these devices is greater than ever. As the demand for chips continues to grow, Taiwan’s farmers must face the socioeconomic impacts of losing countless crops.

Solutions

The importance of the computer chip industry to Taiwan’s economy is immense. Therefore, the government is putting a lot of effort into trying to quickly resolve the water crisis. The government has prioritized constructing wells for water and using military planes to spread cloud-seeding chemicals that have the potential to produce rain.

The government had promptly tackled prior issues with water, including leaky pipes, which caused 14% of water loss in the past. The leakage rate is now down 20% from the previous decade. The government has also started creating more water desalination plants, which process significant amounts of water. The plants may not be enough to keep up with the needs of semiconductor manufacturers, however. Chip manufacturers are also attempting to save themselves.  A large semiconductor producer known as TSMC is recycling 86% of the water it uses in order to conserve water.

There is no doubt that water allocation during droughts in Taiwan must be improved, but with government authorities, struggling farmers and social media influencers coming together to discuss the issue, there is hope that a long-term solution may be on the horizon.

Susan Morales
Photo: Flickr

the drought in AfghanistanSince the 20th century, Afghanistan, an arid country in the Middle East, has experienced repeated droughts. The below-average rainfalls in 2021 may be an indication of another impending drought. The droughts have impacted food security in Afghanistan, leaving many Afghans struggling to acquire food. However, the Afghan government and aid groups are stepping in with assistance in preparation for an upcoming drought in Afghanistan.

Drought in Afghanistan

A majority of the precipitation used to water fields and crops in Afghanistan comes from snow, ice and glaciers up in the mountains. This water is funneled down through either canals or underground irrigation systems set in place. The Hindu Kush mountains provide roughly 80% of Afghanistan’s water supply. The last two decades have seen two droughts a decade. However, all previous decades typically saw only one drought in a cycle of three to five years. The most recent drought in Afghanistan in 2018 caused around 250,000 people to migrate elsewhere.

Furthermore, the drought left farmers unable to reap crops from dry land and herders began selling off livestock for bare minimum prices. The massive displacement of people stems from a lack of assistance from the government and aid groups. The 2018 drought impacted 22 out of 34 Afghanistan provinces and led to 13.5 million people facing heightened levels of food insecurity. The Afghan government and aid groups were slow to respond to the last drought but now assert that they are better prepared for the impending drought.

The Current Situation

According to Reliefweb, close to 11 million people in Afghanistan are currently experiencing soaring levels of acute food insecurity due to COVID-19, conflict throughout the country, escalating food costs and high levels of unemployment. Due to the drought, wheat production is suffering and causing the economy to become even more unstable. Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic already heightened issues within the economy and farmers and herdsmen are driven into a cyclical pattern of loans and debt if the drought in Afghanistan causes crops to fail, leading to significant instability.

Humanitarian Aid in Response to Droughts

The country saw little to no aid in the 2018 drought, but some of the aid received did prove valuable. In Afghanistan’s Badghis Province, aid came in the form of basic water pumps and solar-powered irrigation systems to prevent families from being forced to abandon their homes. The New Humanitarian visited this village in 2018 and reported that the land was green and no families had left. In essence, “a safe source of drinking water was enough to keep people home.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization put together a drought risk management strategy that was released in 2020 and manages the risk of drought in Afghanistan until 2030. The plan is extensive and could help millions of people, but it is quite costly. Furthermore, it may require more than the estimated 10 years to complete. In the meantime, the help of humanitarian groups garnered a $390 million drought contingency plan. This plan includes food and monetary aid as well as initiatives to “support livestock and rehabilitate water wells.”

Droughts in Afghanistan have been a devastating issue since the mid-1900s and continue to this day. With the severity of the 2018 drought, the government of Afghanistan and other humanitarian aids are working to be better prepared for impending droughts. Slowly, the country will be able to pull itself out of increasingly severe food insecurity levels, improving the lives of people in Afghanistan.

Allie Degner
Photo: Flickr

Natural Disaster Aid in Paraguay
The landlocked Republic of Paraguay is prone to a wide range of natural disasters. Floods and droughts affect the most benighted areas of the country. Fortunately, both national and international agencies are taking action in aiding the local population, working through COVID-19 preventive measures that have delayed the arrival of natural disaster relief packages.

Natural Disasters in Paraguay

Paraguay experienced its worst floods in 2015 and 2019. Since then, the country has confronted subsequent natural disasters in the regions of Boquerón, Presidente Hayes and Alto Paraguay, with more than 2,400 families and 80,000 individuals affected. Even though Paraguay is one of the most humid countries in the region with a fairly high precipitation rate, climate oscillations have been destabilizing already vulnerable communities. As a country relying primarily on crops and cattle raising, fluctuations in climate and natural disasters can prove fatal for the rural population, not only putting the local economy at risk but also increasing the chances of infections through water-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.

As the South American country that has experienced the steepest exponential economic growth in the last thirty years, Paraguay has taken long strides to increase income per capita and reduce inequality. However, most of its economy is commodity-based, which makes it extremely sensitive to fluctuations in climate. Floods tend to be an especially dire calamity since they directly affect the agriculture, animal husbandry and hydroelectric energy industries.

Increasing Climate Resiliency

According to the World Bank, Paraguay ranks 95 out of 181 countries in the 2019 Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative. This renders the country fairly vulnerable to climate catastrophe, primarily because of a lack of response and strategic planning. Climate indexes such as this one serve to acquire relevant diagnoses and eventually form sector-specific policies that can aid development outcomes.

It is necessary for the national government to take action to increase climate resiliency by adopting adaptation implementation efforts. Policymaking is crucial in this area, prioritizing investments for more efficient climate mitigation techniques in vulnerable rural areas.

A Four-Part Plan

The Paraguayan government has been taking action against these threats. The Ministry for National Emergencies (SEN) alongside the country’s National System of the Environment (SISAM) have devised a comprehensive plan to diminish natural disaster impact in Paraguay. The plan has been included in Paraguay’s Sustainable Development Goals for disaster risk reduction and consists of four parts:

  1. Understanding the extent of damage that natural disasters may cause. This includes encouraging research for preventive purposes and using ancestral indigenous techniques in farming to reduce the environmental impact that slash-and-burn techniques have on climate catastrophe.
  2. Increase governance in areas prone to natural disasters. The government is committed to creating laws related to aid in cases of floods and droughts, and beginning to build sound infrastructure to easily aid affected areas.
  3. Invest resources in building said infrastructures, such as roads and municipal buildings that can withstand harsh environmental conditions. This goal also expects to increase cooperation between national and regional authorities for quick aid relief.
  4. Ameliorate time of response by authorities and communities. This means not only investing in disaster-proof establishments but also empowering individuals and promoting universal access to reconstruction and rehabilitation.

International Assistance

In addition to the government, international aid organizations are also providing natural disaster relief to Paraguay. For example, USAID has been active in Paraguay since 2004, providing aid in the aftermath of 10 disasters. The World Bank has also been focused on helping Paraguay improve disaster preparedness. The organization has identified research gaps within Paraguay’s climate disaster response, including climate variability and water resources. Additionally, the World Bank has led economic-environmental feasibility studies, which are currently lacking. These efforts are all designed to ensure Paraguay has the resources necessary to overcome natural disasters.

Alongside conscientious data-gathering for the prevention of natural disasters and natural disaster relief, international assistance is crucial: it has not only proven helpful during calamitous environmental instances but also during a yellow fever outbreak, the subsequent seasonal dengue epidemic and COVID-19. Moving forward, USAID, the World Bank and other international organizations must continue to prioritize addressing natural disasters in Paraguay.

Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr