Oxfam International
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                                  Drought is a prolonged dry period in the natural climate cycle that can occur anywhere in the
                                  world. It is a slow-onset disaster characterized by the lack of precipitation, resulting in a water
                                  shortage. Drought can have a serious impact on health, agriculture, economies, energy and the
                                  An estimated 55 million people globally are affected by droughts every year, and they are the most
                                  serious hazard to livestock and crops in nearly every part of the world. Drought threatens people’s
                                  livelihoods, increases the risk of disease and death, and fuels mass migration. Water scarcity
                                  impacts 40% of the world’s population, and as many as 700 million people are at-risk of being
                                  displaced as a result of drought by 2030.
                                  Rising temperatures caused by climate change are making already dry regions drier and wet
                                  regions wetter. In dry regions, this means that when temperatures rise, water evaporates more
                                  quickly, and thus increases the risk of drought or prolongs periods of drought. Between 80-90% of
                                  all documented disasters from natural hazards during the past 10 years have resulted from floods,
                                  droughts, tropical cyclones, heat waves and severe storms.


                                  When drought causes water and food shortages there can be many impacts on the health of the
                                  affected population, which may increase the risk of disease and death. Drought may have acute and
                                  chronic health effects, including:

                                  • malnutrition due to the decreased availability of food, including micronutrient deficiency, such
                                    as iron-deficiency anaemia;
                                  • increased risk of infectious diseases, such as cholera, diarrhoea, and pneumonia, due to
                                    acute malnutrition, lack of water and sanitation, and displacement;
                                  • psycho-social stress and mental health disorders;
                                  • disruption of local health services due to a lack of water supplies, loss of buying power,


                                  migration and/or health workers being forced to leave local areas.
                                  Severe drought can also affect air quality by making wildfires and dust storms more likely, increasing
                                  health risk in people already impacted by lung diseases, like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary
                                  disease (COPD), or with heart disease.

                                  WHO Response

                                  As the health cluster lead for global emergencies, WHO works with partners to respond to drought-
                                  related disasters. This includes:

                                  • ensuring appropriate food supplementation
                                  • health services, like immunization, child and maternal health, and mental health
                                  • assembling mobile health teams and outreach
                                  • epidemic surveillance, early warning and response
                                  • calling for emergency funding to support health action.



                                  of disasters

                                  80-90% of natural disasters in the last 10 years are from floods, droughts and severe storms.

                                  Find out more

                                  700 million


                                  700 million people are at-risk of being displaced as a result of drought by 2030.

                                  Find out more


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