3.1.6 Drought

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3 1 6 sequiasDroughts are prolonged dry periods in climatological cycles. They are slow-onset emergencies caused by a shortage of precipitation in combination with other factors, and often result in massive displacement of populations.

Globally, droughts are also a leading cause of fatalities, and are responsible for approximately 50 percent of the victims of natural disasters. Fatalities attendant on drought are due primarily to the lack of food and the worsening of preexisting conditions such as malnutrition.

The number of deaths can also be related directly to excessive heat and lack of water.

  • While the lack of sufficient food is the leading cause of death during drought, there are other health effects, including increased occurrence of vector-borne diseases. Drought also has significant impact on infection, since less water is available for drinking and personal hygiene. 
  • It has been demonstrated that in times of scarcity, people tend to use water to cook rather than for hygiene. 
  • In 1997-98 in Venezuela and Colombia, the number of cases of malaria increased by more than one-third in the drought periods associated with El Niño.

Go to: Epidemics and pandemics