June 15, 2018 / 8:37 AM / 6 months ago

Desert-fringed Middle East, North Africa put on new drought warning

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - With dusty desert sprawled across the region, Middle Eastern and north African nations must prepare better for drought as water shortages look set to worsen, the United Nations said on Friday.

Over the past 40 years, droughts have become longer and more frequent in the region, where fresh water resources are among the world’s lowest, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

That will likely worsen due to climate change, it added.

The region must move away from simply responding to the effects of drought, and instead, implement robust plans that prepare for the worst, it said.

“We need to perceive and manage droughts differently, and shift from emergency response to more proactive policy and long-term planning to reduce risks and build greater resilience,” Rene Castro, deputy head at FAO’s climate office, said in a statement.

The report recommended growing crops that need less water, using more water-efficient irrigation systems, or lowering the amount of livestock to prevent over-grazing.

Some villages in southwest Morocco on the edge of the Sahara desert have also been using a fog collection project to turn mist into water to tackle water shortages.

Swelling populations and food demands, combined with even scarcer water and land resources, could lead to a doubling of food prices and trigger civil unrest in some developing countries, the United Nations has said.

Water scarcity already affects more than 40 percent of the world’s population, according to the U.N.’s 2018 World Water Development Report.

That number is expected to rise due to global warming, with one in four people projected to face chronic or recurring shortages by 2050, it added.

Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, gender equality, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories

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