Morocco is a water-scarce country. It is greatly impacted by the effects of rapid desertification, poor water management and high susceptibility to droughts. Water resources in the country have fallen by about 71% since 1980. In rural communities it is common for families to rely on one water source, meaning water scarcity can have profoundly negative impacts on Morrocan families and their livelihoods. Drought, in particular, occurs on average once every three years and can have devastating effects on the livelihoods of Moroccans. About 51.5% of the Moroccan population is negatively impacted by droughts. With drought on the rise, sustainable water management is integral to the development of the economy. As a result, an organization called Dar Si Hmad is stepping in to use CloudFishing to combat poverty and water scarcity in Morocco.

Water Scarcity and Poverty

The citizen’s organization ‘Social Watch’ identifies the poor management of scarce water resources as a serious aggravator of rural poverty in Morocco. Farmers and women in Morocco are particularly burdened by the effects of water scarcity. Forty percent of working Moroccans are employed in the agricultural sector and 70% of farmers struggle due to the impact of frequent droughts. Women in rural communities in Morocco spend on average 3.5 hours a day seeking and carrying water, restricting their time in pursuit of other activities.

CloudFishing to Solve the Water Crisis

Dar Si Hmad, a female-led non-governmental organization (NGO), is taking an innovative approach to solving the crisis of water scarcity and alleviating poverty in Morocco. The NGO’s vision is to “enable sustainable livelihoods and create opportunities for low-resource communities to learn and prosper.” It is pursuing this vision, in part, by using ‘CloudFishing’ to combat poverty in Morocco. CloudFishing is an approach to solve the water crisis by utilizing the abundant resource of fog. In Morocco, fog gathers from the ocean and is captured in the mountainous landscape for about 140 days out of the year. Dar Si Hmad uses fine mesh to ‘fish’ for droplets of water within the fog which, once it accumulates, drops into a basin and is then filtered through a process of solar-powered UV, sand and cartridge filters.

The water collected by Dar Si Hmad is piped to 140 households providing approximately 500 people in southwest Morocco with access to sustainable clean water. Dar Si Hmad has developed into the largest functioning fog collection project in the world and is directly contributing to poverty alleviation in the country. The project is partly funded by USAID in Rabat, Morocco. Sustained foreign aid from the U.S. is integral to the organization’s continued success. CloudFishing has a positive impact on women in the community who now have more time to devote to pursuing economic activities to help them rise out of poverty. Sustainable access to water also allows poor farmers to have more stable livelihoods and escape the cycle of poverty in Morocco.

Looking Forward

While clean water is a human right recognized by a number of international organizations and countries, in water-scarce Morocco it has become a luxury. Dar Si Hmad is continuing its work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and is preparing to build two new CloudFishers to provide water to 12 additional rural villages in Morocco. Dar Si Hmad plays an integral role in providing solutions like CloudFishing to combat poverty and water scarcity in Morocco.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

Hydroponics Fight Hunger
In the past 40 years, droughts have impacted more of the world’s population than any other natural disaster. Their intensity and occurrence have increased, and the developing world bears the brunt of consequences including hunger, environmental damage and economic and social instability. Agriculture, in particular, a sector that supports 40% of the world population’s primary livelihoods, suffers from worsening droughts. In Eastern and Central Africa water scarcity and population growth dually affect food security to an increasing degree. The CEO and founder of Hydroponics Africa LLC, Peter Chege, is helping introduce the innovative and cost-effective method of hydroponic farming in Africa to help improve food security.

How Hydroponic Farming Fights Hunger

Hydroponic systems rely on dissolved nutrient additives to grow food in contained water structures rather than soil. These systems use water 90% more efficiently than traditional agricultural production methods because the closed systems recycle water. Using this method of production, farmers can precisely control pH and nutrient levels in the water to optimize plant growth. Furthermore, vertically stacked hydroponic systems can increase crop growth density and production rates.

Hydroponic systems support crop growth in drought-stricken areas with poor soil conditions that would typically prohibit productive farming. The potential for greater crop output means hydroponics fight hunger by combatting food-insecurity and improve the livelihoods of low-income farmers.

Introducing Hydroponics to African Countries

Chege, a chemist out of the University of Nairobi, founded Hydroponics Kenya in 2012 to market hydroponic systems to Kenyan farmers as an affordable alternative to purchasing livestock feed. His company was the first to market hydroponics in East Africa. Since its foundation, his company expanded into Hydroponics Africa LLC and began to produce and install crop-and fodder-growing hydroponic systems in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. Additionally, there has been growing governmental support to increase the overall use of hydroponic farming in Africa.

Hydroponics Africa partners with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It receives support from Kenya’s Water Resource Management Authority (WARMA) and the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture. The Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC)—an organization that aims to improve the productivity of small farms and promote water management technologies—has also issued Hydroponics Africa a “proof of concept grant” to help hydroponics fight hunger in Kenya.

Hydroponics Africa has sold more than 365 greenhouse units and 700 fodder units, which have helped to save 500 million liters of water and support 6,000 tons of crop yields. The company has also trained over 20,000 people on hydroponic farming techniques.

The Benefit to Low-Income Farmers

Hydroponics Africa LLC creates customizable hydroponic systems using local materials and markets them toward small- and mid-size farms. The systems require no previous user experience, no thermostat nor electricity and minimal user input. The system prices currently range from $100 to $4,800. Additionally, the company is working with local banks to make these systems accessible to low-income farmers through loans. For example, payment options include 0-20% upfront costs and a monthly payment plan per system. The costs are justified by the increased crop yields for subsistence and sale that the hydroponic method promises.

Hydroponic farming helps fight hunger in areas poorly suited to traditional agriculture. Companies like Hydroponics Africa LLC have the potential to revolutionize agriculture for low-income farmers in drought-stricken countries. The emergence of hydroponic technology may be a life-changing solution to food insecurity exacerbated by population growth and drought.

– Avery Saklad
Photo: Flickr

hunger in somaliaOut of control locust swarms, intense droughts and heavy flooding have decimated crops and the livelihood of Somalis. These factors increase hunger in Somalia by leaving millions of people food insecure. Currently, 5.7 million people, almost half of Somalia’s population, are food insecure, and 2.7 million people cannot meet their daily food requirements. The country faces constant fighting, recurring locust swarms, droughts and floods – all of which drastically affect hunger in Somalia.

4 Reasons for Hunger in Somalia

  1. Ongoing conflict destabilizes the country, disrupts livelihoods and hinders aid distribution. Since gaining independence in 1960, Somalia has experienced conflict after conflict, destabilizing the country and harming its people. In 1988, a full-scale civil war broke out due to a power vacuum. Two warlords attempted to gain control of the country, both ultimately failing but subjecting Somalia to crisis. The fighting between these factions destroyed crops and stopped food distribution, causing a famine that killed 300,000 people. Currently, more than 2.6 million Somalis are internally displaced and 760,000 Somalis fled to neighboring countries, leaving their livelihoods behind. Even though a government was established in 2004, its power is extremely limited. Conflict continues around the country, decreasing stability and security while raising humanitarian issues — one of them being food insecurity.
  2. The biggest locust swarm Somalia has experienced in 25 years is currently ravaging crops and farmland. Compounding an already fragile situation, locusts are feasting on crops that could otherwise feed 280,000 people for six months. The locust outbreak originated in Yemen in December. Instead of dying out like expected, the locust numbers increased exponentially when nonseasonal rains allowed for breeding. Adult locusts cause incredible damage to crops: they can eat their body weight daily and can fly up to 93 miles to find food. If they are not controlled, the loss of crops will be severe. Currently, Somalia plans to use biopesticides — a fungus which produces a toxin meant to only kill locusts and related grasshoppers — to get rid of the swarms. Due to the unstable nature of Somalia’s government, using planes to spray insecticide from the air is impossible, so the biopesticide is a reliable alternative.
  3. Somalia is suffering from a 10-year-long drought. For the past decade, drought has severely affected Somalia’s largely agricultural population and contributed to hunger in Somalia. During this time, Somalia only had one proper rainy season. Thus, in 2011 the drought became so bad it triggered a famine. For a famine to occur, three things must happen: a failure of food production, an inability to access food and a failure of governments and international donors to respond. First, the drought killed off crops and livestock, so people lost their income and purchasing power; they were no longer able to obtain food. Lastly, donors did not react quickly enough or provide as much aid as was needed — the U.N. only raised $200 million out of the needed $1 billion. Because of this “triple failure,” this famine killed around 260,000 people. So when the drought worsened in 2017 – 2019, the response, while still not adequate, was enough to keep the situation from turning into a famine. However, 6.7 million people were still left without access to food. Cholera, diarrhea and measles outbreaks accompanied the drought, and because people were dehydrated and weak from hunger these outbreaks had a heavy toll, infecting more than 16,000 people.
  4. Seasonal rains turn into destructive flash floods. By April 2020, the seasonal Gu’ rains, which last from April through June, flooded more than 27 districts and caused the Shabelle and Juba Rivers to overflow. The floods affected close to 1.2 million people and displaced 436,000. While the Gu’ rains are expected — and are often a respite from the long-lasting droughts — they are often destructive. In the Doolow district alone, floods destroyed 1,200 farms and 12,000 hectares of farmland. This kind of rainfall does not help Somalia against its drought, but instead overwhelms communities and causes even more destruction.

With upcoming elections, Somalia has an opportunity to take a step forward into peace and stability. While the locust swarms, drought and floods threaten to undermine Somalia’s future, a stronger government will be able to slow conflict and bring security back, allowing for better management of resources to prevent hunger in Somalia from continuing.

– Zoe Padelopoulos
Photo: Flickr

Though many areas of Africa are developing thoroughly and implementing infrastructure, food security still remains an issue. Internal displacement, environmental factors and price fluctuations in countries like Ethiopia can be devastating. Predictions from the Ethiopia Humanitarian Response Plan estimated that about 8.1 million people became victims of food insecurity in 2019. Additionally, although about 2.2 million people have been internally displaced in Ethiopia as of May 2019, government operations allowed for the return of approximately 1.8 million people to their areas of origin. These seven facts about hunger in Ethiopia will give an overview of both the issues facing the country and the measures being taken to provide a solution to the food shortages.

7 Facts Concerning Hunger in Ethiopia

  1. In 2019, there were about 8 million people in Ethiopia that needed some form of aid or assistance. Of that total, approximately 4.2 million were children. Not everyone could be reached, however. The aid supplied in 2019 was only projected to reach about 3.8 million people, 2 million of which were children.
  2. Seasonal rains are often delayed in the Ethiopian region, which can lead to drought. Much of the affected population are subsistence farmers and are, therefore, unable to grow crops during this time. Insufficient rainfall to meet standards for crops occurs often, and as recently as the 2017 rainy season. The BBC estimates that droughts can cause the yield for crops to decrease to only 10% of what is expected for a regular season.
  3. Cultural biases, including those towards males, make the challenges already faced by the general population heightened for women and children. Because resources are traditionally directed towards men first, approximately 370,000 women and children in Ethiopia are in need of dire aid due to issues like severe acute malnutrition.
  4. To cope with the hunger crisis in their country, many Ethiopians have been forced to sell some of their assets. Traditionally, respite for Ethiopians is found through selling cattle for a decent sum. However, due to the prices of cattle falling during a famine, families are forced to forfeit their houses, gold, and even their land.
  5. An estimated $124 million was required to adequately serve and protect Ethiopians from hunger and famine in 2019. Due to the novel coronavirus and other health issues arising, these numbers could rise in the wake of the pandemic. Serving the healthcare sector directly benefits the issue of hunger as well.
  6. Organizations like World Vision, Food for Peace (FFP) from USAID and Mercy Corps are acting throughout Ethiopia to provide the necessary resources for surmounting the famine. Investigations and studies of the government’s safety net are being conducted to ensure the safety of the citizens in the future should famines arise again. Additionally, consortiums are periodically being held to provide food assistance to those Ethiopians facing acute food insecurity.
  7. Mercy Corps specifically recognizes education as a barrier to effectively fight famine and poverty in general. The organization’s efforts are concentrated on diversifying the prospective methods of financial gain for Ethiopians so that droughts will not completely wipe out their only source of income. Additionally, the organization is working in health-related facilities around Ethiopia to educate workers on the treatment of malnutrition.

Though Ethiopia has struggled to meet the needs of its people with regards to food supply in the past, current aid and education from foreign nations are assisting in the ultimate goal to eradicate hunger and malnutrition. The issue of hunger in Ethiopia is an immense one to tackle, but with work to develop and improve agricultural techniques for individual farmers, the country can collectively improve the situation.

– Pratik Koppikar
Photo: World Vision

10 Facts About Sanitation in SomaliaLack of access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is inextricably linked to extreme poverty around the globe. Somalia, a country located in the Horn of Africa, has long faced issues relating to WASH. Though Somalia struggles with WASH, some organizations have vastly improved sanitation in Somalia. The following are 10 facts about sanitation in Somalia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Somalia

  1. Currently, only 52 percent of Somalia’s population has a water supply close to home. This impacts women and children especially since the chore of fetching water falls on them in this society. Women must trek miles in the hot sun to fill jugs of water. Mercy-USA has been working to tackle this water crisis since 1997. In addition, they have dug and repaired about 670 wells. As a result, more than 750,000 people in Somalia have access to safe drinking water.
  2. Only a quarter of Somalia’s population has access to improved sanitation facilities within 10 meters. Poor hygiene and sanitation practices due to a lack of access to proper sanitation facilities can lead to chronic/acute diarrhea, respiratory infections and cholera. Theses are life-threatening illnesses for some age groups. Just the past three years, more than 900 people in Somalia died from cholera. UNICEF is working to improve access to sanitation facilities. It provides integrated interventions that can reduce the incidences of these easily preventable diseases.
  3. Drought has increased the price of water, exacerbating the already dangerous situation. The recent drought in Somalia led to severe water shortages. This tripled the price of a barrel of water (200 liters) to $15. CARE responded to this drought by providing 10,000 people with access to water. Additionally, CARE distributed water purification tablets to areas most affected by the drought.
  4. In parts of Somalia, up to 60 percent of pastoralists’ herds were wiped out by drought. Recently, Somalia experienced a drought that had extremely adverse effects on the country’s pastoralist communities. As Somalia has a traditional agro-pastoral focus, this expected to severely impact the economy. The livestock sector accounts for 40 percent of GDP. Thankfully, “FAO reached 38.3 million animals in Somalia through animal health services.” This “provided more than 900,000 animals with supplementary feeding.” Additionally, it delivered more than 53 million liters of water to these animals in response to the urgent needs of these drought-stricken pastoralists.
  5. Action Against Hunger is providing hygiene education sessions to teach Somali communities about preventing disease. Diseases often spread due to inadequate knowledge surrounding hygienic practices. Action Against Hunger launched a cholera prevention program that provided communities with sessions on hygiene and sanitation. These sessions showed the importance of handwashing, properly disposing of trash and how to properly clean the toilets.
  6. About 37 percent of Somalia’s population defecate in the open, but this is changing. In rural parts of Somalia, open defecation is a common practice that can cause serious risks to public health. UNICEF is working with local partner HEAL in villages in Somalia to educate communities with the goal of ending this practice. Moreover, HEAL proved that simply educating these communities is quite effective. After UNICEF and HEAL provided these villages with technical assistance and ran awareness campaigns, many families used their own money to build latrines. Today 12 villages in Somaliland, two villages in Puntland and 25 villages in Somalia’s central and southern regions have achieved the status of “open defecation free.”
  7. Sanitation in Somali schools is improving. Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) addressed the need for functional toilets, hand-washing stations and waste disposal locations in Somali schools. PAH assessed schools in Somalia and identified five with the highest need for updates, one of which did not have a single running toilet. Additionally, PAH provided these schools with eight water kiosks. It rehabilitated existing facilities and built “20 triple latrine-blocks with hand-washing facilities.”
  8. Discussion groups are helping organizations understand how to improve Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in Somalia. In Somalia, menstruation continues to be a taboo. Many women only have access to cloth rags that restrict movement. The cloth rags are unsanitary because houses do not always have the ability to wash them regularly. ELRHA sent 2,000 MHM kits to various countries, including Somalia. Its plans are to follow up in one and three months to measure the appropriateness, effectiveness, acceptability and value of these kits as a humanitarian relief item.
  9. Piped water from UNICEF-EU installed tanks is giving children hope that they will be able to attend school in lieu of fetching water. A joint urban water project is installing water tanks on the outskirts of Somali towns and pipelines. In addition, it will bring this vital resource closer to their homes. Farrah, who is 13 years old, supports his family as a water vendor. Hopefully, once water is piped into his town, he will be able to go to school instead of traveling daily for water. Farrah mentioned that “I will go to school. […] I will carry books instead of jerrycans. And I will walk with my classmates instead of a donkey. It has always been my dream to wear a uniform and carry books.”
  10. In the last year, more than 49,000 people had to flee their homes in search of water and other necessities. This came after a drought in 2016 to 2017 that displaced more than one million people. As a result, the U.N. Refugee Agency has been working with partners and government agencies to help those affected and displaced by the drought. They provided emergency assistance to some of the most affected areas of Somalia.

Lack of sanitation is closely tied to poverty. People are unable to break the cycle of poverty when their basic needs are not met. Somalia is still far from achieving proper sanitation for all who inhabit the country. However, these facts about sanitation in Somalia prove that hope is not lost. With help from generous organizations around the world, sanitation can become accessible for all.

Hannah White

Photo: Flickr
Drought in Thailand
Thailand is currently facing a drought so severe that experts say that it is the worst drought in the previous 40 years. The low-lying water level of the Chao Phraya River, which is the main source of water for Thailand’s capital city Bangkok, has exasperated the current drought in Thailand. The issue is becoming so troublesome that people in and around Bangkok are experiencing water shortages. In addition, the decline in the water level of the Chao Phraya River has resulted in seawater entering the public water source, and many reported tasting salty water dispensed from their water tabs. Water salination not only puts drinking water in jeopardy, but it also affects water-reliant industries such as agriculture and various manufacturing plants.

Key questions that people should consider are: What is the source of the current drought in Thailand? Who does this drought primarily affect? Is this drought a new problem, or a recurrent one?

Climate in Thailand

Thailand’s climate is tropical and typically supplies ample amounts of precipitation throughout the year. From mid-May to September, Thailand actually experiences a rainy monsoon season. On average, the Bangkok region experiences over 150 mm of rainfall during monsoon season. However, from November to mid-March, the country experiences a dry season, thus providing ample opportunity for drought.

The Unpredictability of the Weather in Thailand

Irregular weather patterns in Thailand began as early as 1986 when reports indicated that droughts occurred as a result of El Nino. Experts believe that continued abnormal weather patterns correlate with climate change throughout the last few decades. These irregularities in rainfall have caused great difficulties for the nation’s citizens. Between 1990 and 1993, the rainfall dipped below typical levels. However, between 1994 and 1995, intense rainfall caused one of the worst floods in Thailand’s history.

Agricultural Impact of Weather Patterns

The unpredictable precipitation in Thailand is a major problem, specifically for Thailand’s agricultural sector. Until recently, Thailand was the largest exporter of rice in Asia. Nicknamed the “rice bowl of Asia,” Thailand exported $5.6 billion worth of rice in 2018 or 22.7 percent of the world’s rice export. This sector experienced a great impact from the drought as Thailand’s agricultural sector utilizes 70 percent of Thailand’s total water supply. Another industry facing a huge impact is Thailand’s sugar industry, bringing the Thai sugar output to a nine-year low of 10.5 million tons.

These kinds of severe droughts might raise agricultural prices, making food less affordable to many. The scarcity of agricultural goods will inevitably hurt farmers if they cannot produce, especially those 40 percent living under the poverty line, potentially causing them to face perpetual poverty. The continuous decline in agricultural production might even negatively impact Thailand’s economy.

Thai Government’s Measures to Combat Drought

Drought in Thailand has previously initiated governmental measures. The Thai Constitution of October 1997 established a national push to both conserve the country’s natural resources and use them in a sustainable way.

As a result, the Thai government has promoted projects and campaigns which encouraged water conservation. Thailand has implemented dams and reservoirs to play a major part in relieving drought in the country. Thailand initiated the majority of the construction of its major dams and reservoirs, such as the Chao Phraya Division Dam, the Bhumibol and Sirikit Dams and the Greater Chao Phraya Irrigation, after the Second World War.

In 2019, for example, the Royal Irrigation Department of the Thai government designed two rice planting areas in the central plains to double as water catchment areas. Currently, the government is planning to build 421 water storage facilities to support farmers who are suffering from the current drought. Due to the intensity of the current drought in Thailand, the Thai Irrigation Department is raising slight concerns about the efficacy of these dams and reservoirs. 

Drought in Thailand has been a long occurring issue that affects numerous aspects of Thai society. Specifically, the negative impact on the agricultural sector not only affects the farmers but fluctuating food costs also affect Thai consumers. The irregular precipitation rate, that the climate change of the last decades caused, is further worsening the drought in Thailand, thus creating a cyclic decline of the economy and water sanitation and access.

The Thai government is taking active measures to deal with these issues where the aim is to provide continuous dedication to improving water conservation. The governments’ intention is that eventually, droughts in Thailand will become stories of the past.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

The Societal Consequences Of Climate Change
In this day and age, climate change has grown to be one of the largest issues around the world and it is important to understand its environmental impacts. First, the increase in average temperatures contributes to the phenomenon of global warming that affects millions of species and plants. In addition, extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, have become too common and far more destructive than before. Another primary consequence of climate change is the reduction of Arctic sea ice. Ice melts have contributed to sea levels rising, mainly in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. According to the EPA, sea levels have risen approximately 8 inches since 1870. The world should take action to stop climate change before it is too late. The consequences of climate change could worsen in the coming years.

Many mainly focus on the environmental effects of climate change. Now, it is time for the world to shift its focus towards the societal effects that climate change has on all ages. Specifically, individuals who live poor livelihoods are more prone to poverty due to the climatic disasters that occur around the world. Living in vulnerable regions with limited resources affects people the most as it is more difficult to recover. As the repercussions of climate change worsen, escaping poverty becomes more and more difficult. As a result, issues like food insecurity and the lack of access to water become more prevalent. Here are some societal consequences of climate change.

Food Insecurity

Climate change has become a benefactor for global poverty by contributing to the issue of food security. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the climate affects all four dimensions of food security including food availability, food accessibility, food utilization and food system stability. Typically, the consequences of climate change mostly affect those who are most vulnerable to food insecurity. By experiencing the immediate risk of increased crop failure, new patterns of pests and diseases and loss of livestock, these individuals are not able to depend on stable food supply. To add, almost 60 percent of the world’s population depends on the agriculture industry in respective areas. When climate phenomenons hinder agricultural productivity, food insecurity puts risks on the livelihood of many individuals.

With this being said, leaders, such as the United States of America, have taken action to help combat this issue in developing nations. For example, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee supplied over $2 billion in climate-sensitive development support to developing countries in 2017. This included approximately $300 million targeted towards the food security sector. Moreover, projects like these provide an opportunity for global powers to display leadership qualities and allow countries that need aid in the food security sector to receive it. With proper access to food and stability within this industry, undernourishment will be an improving problem.

Access to Water in Developing Countries

Climate change seems to have a major impact on water access in developing countries. According to The New York Times, The number of months with record-high rainfall increased in the central and Eastern United States by more than 25 percent between 1980 and 2013. With this statistic being even higher in the eastern hemisphere, it is evident that floods have become a serious issue that many are concerned about. Climate scientists state that the soil and farmland absorb the excess water. Consequently, this means that the Earth could become contaminated with fertilizers and other chemicals. This polluted water typically travels to larger bodies of water such as the ocean, ultimately limiting water access for humans.

In addition, droughts are a growing issue in areas with hotter climates, limiting access to clean water. The lack of access to water can lead to health issues such as diarrhea and cholera. It can also affect the business sector in many nations. The Lifewater organization touches on this subject and explains that water is an essential component processing raw goods for food and textiles. This process provides jobs for millions and helps produce products such as coffee and chocolate. By understanding the importance of water to the health and economy, organizations such as UNICEF have implemented programs to educate the public on how to find access to clean water when natural disasters like floods and droughts occur. In the future, this action will also help alleviate poverty in areas that are at risk.

It is important that the international community shifts its focus on the societal consequences of climate change. Individuals such as Greta Thunberg and Christina Figueres already addressed this throughout the current fight against climate change. Hopefully, this will push governments around the world to implement policies that are more climate-sensitive. People need to view the current crisis from a larger perspective as it affects millions of individuals and their lifestyles. According to an article by BBC News, the world only has approximately 18 months before the effects of environmental change become permanent. In that period of time, it must highlight both environmental and societal consequences, and implement climate-sensitive policies. Additionally, individuals should believe in these improvements as they can lead to other positive changes such as alleviating poverty in lower developed nations.

Srihita Adabala
Photo: Flickr

Droughts in Zimbabwe
Temperatures in southern Africa are notable for their fluctuation which commonly causes climate disasters. These disasters are particularly devastating to Zimbabwe’s rural population of approximately 16 million people and its substantial community of farmers. The country’s landscape has suffered significant damage from unprecedented weather, particularly droughts. Efforts to scale up governmental assistance have skyrocketed since January 2019, which has accounted for much of the rise in the price of basic commodities. Below is a brief history of droughts in Zimbabwe, the many implications that they cause and the solutions that different aid efforts have come to.

History of Drought

Zimbabwe has a long history of droughts, which have cumulatively caused an increase in poverty. On a regional scale, droughts often result in crop failure, loss of livestock and wildlife and power outages. A report from the World Food Programme indicates that as of 2019, an estimated 2.3 million people suffered from poverty as a result of the country’s worst hunger crisis thus far. Citizens turn to government officials to assist in food shortages, and while weather within the region is a determining factor in food production, it is mostly up to different organizations to provide varied forms of food security.

The country’s worst drought happened in 1992, which many consider the most destructive one Zimbabwe faced in the 20th century. Water shortages forced the shutdown of many industries and schools. Due to poor harvests that year, regions across southern Africa faced a short-term supply in their food reserves. Zimbabwe’s food shortages caused a ripple effect, with aggravated food production compromising foods like corn to countries like Mozambique, which relied on Zimbabwe’s exports. Due to low rainfall, communal area farmers did not have any suitable locations for food production.

Solutions and Aid

Shortly after the regional drought, the humanitarian agency Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) worked with Zimbabwe in order to build developmental programs that would increase accessibility to clean water and food. Programs that pilot cleaner VIP latrines, reinforce sexual and reproductive health and develop financial advocacy should increase household income, alleviate food insecurity and improve better access to markets.

In 2016, Zimbabwe declared a drought disaster as an estimated five million people faced food shortages. Shifts in weather patterns were a direct result of El Nino and La Nina, which refer to the periodic changes in sea temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.

The International Rescue Committee works to alleviate many of the economic struggles in Zimbabwe. Started in 2008 after a devastating cholera outbreak, the organization provides support to those afflicted by natural disasters. It will extend its strategy action plan to 2020, continuing to transfer direct cash transfers to low-income households, provide vouchers to farmers, assist in getting more food for livestock, deliver medical and emergency supplies, drill deeper wells and rehabilitate water plants.

The World Food Programme also plans to assist up to two million people in 2020. By March 2020, predictions determine that nearly 59 percent of rural households—5.5 million people—will be food insecure or in poverty. An estimated $173 million is necessary to allocate support to these regions. Many are saying that the hunger crisis will peak during the first three months of 2020, which is elevating the level of urgency for funding.

Recent Drought

Zimbabwe experienced another drought in December 2019, which ignited the worst hunger crisis the country has faced in nearly a decade. It has entered a “Phase 3” food crisis, which is just two steps below large-scale famine. Predictions estimate that this will extend into 2020, as poor macro-economy and germination rates continually affect crop production. In November 2019, farmers received only 55 percent of normal rainfall. Livestock losses have reached 2.2 million people in urban areas and 5.5 million in rural ones. An emergency operation is underway by the World Food Programme in order to assist the 7.7 million people who plunged into hunger. Partnerships with UNICEF and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are leading to more international efforts for resilience programs.

Implications of Drought

These droughts carry many logistical implications, leading to economic struggles as inflation rates go up, farmers undergo crop failure and food supplies grow scarce. Clean water, medical supplies and nourishing foods have become inaccessible and render much of the population food insecure and poverty-stricken.

Droughts in Zimbabwe hold many implications for the country’s current hunger crisis. Varying aid efforts are slowly pushing the region to a progressive standpoint. The limitations of food security, when it comes to natural hazards like droughts, illustrate a need to offer more aid to regions stricken by climate disasters. Efforts to mobilize aid in southern African are essential to curbing economic decline and creating sustainable communities.

– Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of the Somalia Famine in 2011The Horn of Africa is the easternmost region of Africa. It is comprised of four countries: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. In 2011, the countries in the Horn of Africa were severely impacted by what was known as the “worst drought in 60 years.” Somalia was affected the worst due to a combination of extreme weather conditions and civil disorder. On July 20, 2011, the U.N. declared a famine in southern and central Somalia, specifically in Lower Shabelle, Mogadishu and the Bay area where acute malnutrition rates among children exceeded 30 percent. People were unable to access basic necessities. More than two people per 10,000 were dying daily. Inevitably, the famine led to high mortality rates. Nearly 260,000 people died by the end of the 2011 Somalia famine with more than half of the victims being children under five years old.

Cause and Effect of the 2011 Drought

Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, cited poor rainfall for two consecutive seasons was the cause of the severe 2011 East Africa drought. Crops in Somalia are typically planted when the first rain of the season occurs in either March or April. However, the rains were late and inadequate, which caused late planting and harvesting.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network had predicted the harvest in southern Somalia to be 50 percent below average. In addition to this, pastures were sparse due to the intensifying drought, which ultimately led to the rapid loss of livestock. Crop failure coupled with poor harvests and limited livestock reduced food availability. As a result, food prices increased substantially. This ultimately intensified the severe food crisis in Somalia.

Government vs. al-Shabaab

Due to limited resources, a conflict began to grow over food and water. Additionally, civil disorder worsened the famine conditions as the militant Islamic group, al-Shabaab, was at war with the government over control of the country. Food aid was delayed in south-central Somalia—two al-Shabaab controlled regions—because the terrorist group banned numerous humanitarian agencies from distributing food and assistance to starving citizens of the region.

Al-Shabaab threatened citizens with brutal punishment, including execution, if they dared try to escape the region. Despite these terroristic threats, 170,000 citizens of southern Somalia fled to Kenya and Ethiopia to escape the famine conditions that plagued the country. Unfortunately, this resulted in a substantial number of deaths due to severe malnutrition, overpopulated and unsanitary living conditions.

Foreign Aid to Somalia

The United Nations estimated that 3.2 million people in Somalia were in need of immediate help. At least 2.8 million of those citizens were inhabitants of south Somalia. Numerous United Nations agencies, including the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), united to provide relief to the victims of the 2011 Somalia famine. Although the conflict between rival groups initially left the south-central region of Somalia isolated from foreign aid, humanitarian agencies persisted in helping the citizens of Somalia.

The United Nations assisted in raising more than $1 billion for relief efforts across the region to reduce malnourishment and mortality rates. In addition to this, heavy rains in the fall season replenished the land, allowing a successful crop season and a bountiful harvest. In February 2012, the lethal conditions that once swept across the nation had improved. The United Nations declared the famine that plagued Somalia was finally over.

Where Does Somalia Stand Now?

In June 2019, the United Nations declared that countries of the Horn of Africa were at risk of another famine due to another drought. Five million people were at risk of this potential famine with Somalians accounting for a majority of the at-risk population. The Under-Secretary-General and emergency relief coordinator, Mark Lowcock, stated that he allocated $45 million from the U.N. emergency relief fund to help purchase food and other basic necessities. A majority of the $45 million was allocated for Somalia as 2.2 million people could face another severe food crisis similar to the 2011 Somalia famine.

The United Nations recognized that Somalia has suffered from several occurrences of food insecurity. The organization has taken the initiative to prevent another famine from occurring in Somalia by acting early, allocating funds and raising awareness about the issue.

Arielle Pugh
Photo: Flickr

water crisis in Chennai

Chennai, the capital of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, faces a water shortage that threatens the lives of 9 million residents. The city heavily relies on groundwater, which has completely dried up. Ironically, the city is prone to flooding caused by the heavy rains of the monsoon season. The local government failed to harness rainfall during the monsoon season, which was less than usual last year, causing water reserves to remain unfilled. With no further preparation of the inevitable, stored water continued being depleted and resulted in a water crisis in Chennai.

Only Rain Can Save Chennai

Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio posted on Instagram, saying that “only rain can save Chennai from this situation.” The picture was of women trying to draw water from an almost empty well. DiCaprio drew attention to the water crisis in Chennai in hopes of highlighting how devastating the conditions are, and to spread awareness about the importance of preparing for droughts.

The Cause of the Problem

The cause of the drought is the vast amount of urbanization in Chennai. Buildings were quickly built on top of underground water reserves, which eventually dried up due to a lack of rainwater being able to enter them. For example, “in the 1920s…the ancient 70 acre Mylapore tank was filled up to create what is now a bustling residential and commercial area called T Nagar.” This means that the citizens of Chennai have to rely on outside water being brought in.

Getting Water from the Government

One solution for the people of Chennai is to order water from government water trucks.  Each day these trucks bring water to a community or neighborhood for people to fill up their reserves. However, current water tankers have long and increasing wait time, causing further problems. Citizens turn to private tankers, but these sell water “for six times the price [of government tankers].” Until the water tanker process can be made more efficient, people are forced to deplete their savings to pay for water, or even move out of Chennai.

Other Possible Solutions

An alternative solution is to invest in the latest technology to make water more accessible for everyone, such as more desalination plants that make saltwater drinkable. One example is the Minjur desalination plant, which is “35km north of…Chennai,” and is the largest desalination plant in India. It has “a capacity of 100 [milliliters/day]” and could potentially help around 500,000 people in Chennai. The state government hopes to use the plant to help in future water crises.

Ironically, Chennai already has a solution, rainwater harvesting, which is mandatory for all buildings by law. This is the simple process of collected rainwater from buildings which can then be stored for later use. According to The Washington Post, the rainwater harvesting process “has not been rigorously implemented or monitored” leaving many people blaming the Chennai government for their inefficiency and lack of preparation for what is the slow and steady degradation of Chennai’s water supply.

While millions of Chennai citizens currently struggle to get drinking water, it is important to remember that there are solutions that can be implemented to stop a water crisis from reoccurring in the future. Solutions such as desalination plants, water trucks and rainwater harvesting are all steps in the right direction to ensure water access for the millions who need it.

– Anish Kelkar
Photo: Flickr