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Fri, 25 May 2018
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Bizarro Earth

A million children in Africa suffering severe acute malnutrition after years of drought linked to El Niño

african children famine
© Mike Hutchings / Reuters
Up to 1 million children across eastern and southern Africa are being exposed to "severe acute malnutrition" after two years of rain and drought, aggravated by the strongest El Niño in 50 years, UNICEF said. El Niño can also affect the spread of Zika virus.

"The El Niño weather phenomenon will wane, but the cost to children - many who were already living hand-to-mouth - will be felt for years to come," UNICEF Regional Director Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala said in a press-release.

"Governments are responding with available resources, but this is an unprecedented situation. Children's survival is dependent on action taken today," she added.

"El Niño will have a devastating effect on southern Africa's harvests and food security in 2016. The current rainfall season has so far been the driest in the last 35 year," the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network said in a joint statement.

Comment: The genetically modified crops that were forced on African nations and which were supposed to withstand drought and increase yields, have obviously done nothing of the sort.


Four billion people experience severe water shortage at least one month a year, researchers claim

water shortage study
Severe water scarcity affects at least two-thirds of the world's population, or about 4 billion people, according to a new study

These people experience severe water scarcity at least one month a year, and the number is far higher than the 1.7 billion to 3.1 billion people suggested by previous research. Nearly half of the people affected are in China and India.

Other countries where large numbers of people are affected by severe water scarcity for at least part of the year include Bangladesh, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and the United States (mostly in western states such as California and southern states such as Texas and Florida), the study found.

The rising worldwide demand for fresh water is being driven by a growing population, increased agricultural irrigation, higher living standards and changing consumption patterns, according to the researchers led by Mesfin Mekonnen and Arjen Hoekstra of the University of Twente in the Netherlands.

They said the threat can be reduced by placing limits on water consumption, boosting water use efficiency, and improving sharing of fresh water resources.

The study was published Feb. 12 in the journal Science Advances.

More information: M. M. Mekonnen et al. Four billion people facing severe water scarcity, Science Advances (2016). DOI

Journal reference: Science Advances

Bizarro Earth

Bolivia's vanishing Lake Poopó has fully evaporated

 lake poopo bolivia

Proba-V tracks Lake Poopó evaporation
Monitoring Earth's surface every day, ESA's Proba-V minisatellite has had a ringside seat as the second largest lake in Bolivia gradually dried up. Lake Poopó has now been declared fully evaporated.

The three 100-m resolution Proba-V images shown here were acquired on 27 April 2014, 20 July 2015 and 22 January 2016 respectively.

Occupying a depression in the Altiplano mountains, the saline Lake Poopó has in the past spanned an area of 3000 square kilometres - greater than France's Réunion Island.

But the lake's shallow nature, with an average depth of just 3 m, coupled with its arid highland surroundings, means that it is very sensitive to fluctuations in climate.

Its official evaporation was declared last December. This is not the first time Lake Poopó has evaporated - the last time was in 1994 - but the fear is that any refilling might take many years, if it occurs at all.


Poor distribution of rainfall results in floods and droughts in Southern Africa

Drought and floods in southern Africa, February 2016.
Drought and floods in southern Africa, February 2016.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has warned that poor distribution of rainfall in southern Africa is leading to severe drought in some areas and flooding risks in other areas.

In Madagascar, 700,000 people are thought to be affected by the drought in the south, whereas in the north 30,000 people have been affected by heavy rain that has brought a high risk of flooding and landslides.

In Mozambique, over 40% of this season's crops in the south have been lost to drought. In the north, storms and heavy rains have left 45 dead and destroyed over 1,000 homes since the start of the rainy season in October 2015.

Cow Skull

Drought: Zimbabwe declared a state of disaster

woman drought
© www.cityfarmer.info
Slim pickings as drought overtakes Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has declared a state of disaster as a severe drought has been ravaging most rural areas in the South African country. "The president has declared a state of disaster in regard to severely affected areas," Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said in a statement on Friday.

The declaration is expected to trigger a response from the international community to provide food aid to Zimbabwe. Currently, 26 percent of the population - comprising some 2.44 million people - is in need of food aid, said Kasukuwere. Villages in southern Zimbabwe have lost cattle and crops in the drought.

"The seasonal outlook indicated from the outset that the 2015-2016 rainfall season for Zimbabwe was likely to experience normal to below normal rainfall throughout the country," Kasukuwere explained. "This weather condition has been brought about by the El Nino phenomenon."

The El Nino weather phenomenon sparked a dramatic rise in the number of people going hungry in Africa. It is characterized by the warming of surface waters in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean, which is connected to drought in Southeast Asia, Africa and Australia and heavy rains in South America.


Ancient water technologies are being revived to deal with Peru's ongoing drought

water canal peru
© Wikimedia Commons
An Inca-era water canal at Tipón, Peru
Peru has been facing a severe water crisis as chronic problems such as polluted water supplies and environmental change combine to undermine the water security of the entire country. However, the city of Lima is now using a series of ancient canals and irrigation channels built by pre-hispanic cultures around 2,000 years ago, and extended by the Wari and the Inca, in order to supply the inhabitants with clean, unpolluted water, and to maintain parks and other public green areas.

In April, 2015, a new plan was put forward by Lima's water utility company, Sedapal, to revive an ancient network of stone canals that were built by the Wari culture. EFE reports that pre-hispanic canals are now being utilized to serve the water needs of Lima.

Peru's highly populated arid Pacific coast depends on water from glacial melt to compensate for the region's lack of rainfall, but Peru's glaciers have been retreating at a rapid and increasing rate, leaving many areas without adequate access to water. Lima's failing public water system has been unable to address the problem, and privatization has been the preferred formula of the government for fixing the deficiencies - a move that is widely unpopular with the majority of the Peruvian people.


7,000 cattle dead due to drought in Zimbabwe

Livestock are dying in Zimbabwe

Livestock are dying in Zimbabwe
Severe water shortages are also affecting the Midlands and Matabeleland South.

As South Africa shoulders its own major water crisis, other countries in the region haven't been spared the hardships of the El Niño-induced drought.

In Zimbabwe, reports say around 7,000 cattle have died in its southern provinces.

The worst hit areas are in the south of the country, nearest to South Africa.

The Chronicle says that Masvingo province is the hardest hit, with around 5,000 cattle reported to have died there since temperatures went up in October.


South Africa suffered its driest year on record in 2015, threatening food security

South Africa drought
© Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko
South Africa's national weather service has announced that the country is experiencing the lowest rainfall and driest summer in more than 110 years. Adding that the country suffered its driest year on record in 2015, threatening food security.

According to the weather service, average rainfall was 403 mm, about a third less than the 608 mm annual average and the driest since records began in 1904.

The agricultural sector is being hammered by weeks of heat waves that have scorched grazing land, forcing livestock owners to kill or sell animals.

The rural farming town last saw rain on December 15 and has had a severe water shortage for the past three months, with residents having to queue for water. Large parts of the country are facing their worst drought and highest temperatures in decades.

Africa's most advanced economy, a maize exporter, may need to import as much as 5 million tonnes this year, roughly half of its requirements.

A farmer in the maize-producing town of Hoopstad,Chris Skoenwinkle said they are two months late in planting.

Agricultural analysts said the cost of maize imports to make up for lack of crops will be a big burden.

"We've got to import about, in the vicinity of about four million tonnes of maize if it doesn't rain and the rain just stays away. That means we will have to import about 12 billion rands worth of maize," said agricultural economist Ernst Janovsky.

Comment: Warning: Global food crisis early 2016, predicts aid agencies


Zimbabwe to increase food imports as drought hits production badly

A Zimbabwean gathers cobs in a sack for milling at her village in Musana Bindura on September 2, 2015. Zimbabwe is facing food shortages, having been left with only eight weeks of maize reserves.
Local millers say the country only has around 248,000 tonnes of maize left, enough to last 8 weeks.

Zimbabwe's Agriculture Minister Joseph Made says food imports will be stepped up following reports that the country is left with just two months' supply of grain.

Aid agencies warned earlier this year that 1.5 million Zimbabweans would go hungry after a drought hit maize production badly.

Local grain millers say the country only has around 248,000 tonnes of maize left, enough to last eight weeks.

The Herald says Agriculture Minister Joseph Made has admitted that grain stocks are low, but he couldn't give figures.


Colombia under red alert due to drastic drop in water levels and forest fires in Andes mountains

El Cisne lake colombia, drought

A drought caused by El Nino exposes the bed of the El Cisne lake in Colombia, July 31, 2014.
Colombia has issued a red alert in the aftermath of low water levels in the country's main rivers and forest fires burning across the Andes Mountains.

President Juan Manuel Santos made the declaration on Wednesday on the request of Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM).

The decision was made in the wake of a drastic drop in water levels in the two key rivers of Magdalena and Cauca, which supply hundreds of towns and cities in the South American country.