U.N. bodies want to tackle drought to avert food crisis

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U.N. agencies want to strengthen national drought policies after warnings that climate change would increase their frequency and severity.

Droughts cause more deaths and displacement than floods or earthquakes, making them the world's most destructive natural hazard, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, one of the groups taking part.

"We must boost national capacity to cope before droughts occur," Ann Tutwiler, FAO deputy director-general told the five-day talks on drought in Geneva attended by scientists, politicians and development agencies.

"Unless we shift towards such policies, we face the prospect of repeated humanitarian catastrophes and the repeated threat of drought to global food security."

In 2012, the United States experienced the worst drought since the 1930s "dustbowl", pushing grains prices to record highs. In the past years, droughts have also affected the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region as well as China, Russia and southeast Europe.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in December that extreme weather was the "new normal", adding that drought had decimated essential crops from the United States to India, from Ukraine to Brazil.

"No one is immune to climate change - rich or poor. It is an existential challenge for the whole human race - our way of life, our plans for the future," he said at the time.

However, governments have often been slow to act on drought as, unlike other natural disasters, they tend to develop more gradually and often do not generate an instant media buzz.

"As opposed to other natural disasters it's a slow creeping phenomenon," said Mannava Sivakumar a director for the World Meteorological Organisation's (WMO) climate prediction and adaptation division who assisted with the talks.

"If people say let's what and see what happens, before you realise it, you see crops dying, orchards dying and millions of dollars in damage," he added.

The four U.N. bodies that launched the "National Drought Management Policies Initiative" were the FAO, the WMO, the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification and the U.N.-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development.

The project aims to develop early warning systems, following the example of the U.S. National Integrated Drought Information System, and mitigation measures which might include helping farmers change their planting schedule to adapt to water shortages.

They said they would proceed through four regional workshops in eastern Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean throughout 2013.

The conference also urged governments to develop stronger regional and global cooperation to improve observation systems and to put in place national emergency relief measures. (Editing by Alison Williams)

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March, 17, 2013 at 06:23 AM

It's time for the US to get out of the UN! It's time for the US to take care of the US and to let other countries do the same! If these other countries worked at controlling their birthrate and actually working instead of trying to attack and blowup others they wouldnMt have so many problems! Other countries have tried to help these countries for centuries and the truth is they don't want to change so we should let them struggle on their own! Our help only allows them to keep making bad choices!

USA  |  March, 17, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Gee in America we have the US goverment telling farmers that they can not use water from their own well's toiragate crops. How dose that fit in with your program?

Rain Forest, WA  |  March, 17, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Lockheed Martin developed a new water filtration purification system that uses graphene. They claim it'll be 100 times more efficient that current systems because it uses very little energy to migrate the water through the extremely thin sheet. Some of these 'shortages' are solvable by using the private sector. We need cheap electricity and reduce governmental interference.

Texas  |  March, 17, 2013 at 12:51 PM

This article is a piece of obnoxious propaganda, laced with enviro-wacko greenie, global warming buzzwords, and communist doublespeak. But what more would we expect from Reuters? The blithering idiots who are quoted obviously believe that man can somehow affect the occurrence of drought. Our climate "changes" and cycles constantly, but the idea of "climate change" (formerly glow-ball warming), as sold to the world by Gore & Co, is ludicrous. The only thing more ludicrous is believing we can do anything to stop droughts from happening, through our behavior. The world as a whole has rejected the idiocy of man caused climate change. Someone please get these ignorants who continue to spout the rejected screed OFF the world stage. They are making utter fools of themselves. The UN bureaucrats should visit CA's Central Valley for a flash course in the effects of man induced drought. In Dec, Ki-moon states that Brazil is in serious drought, but by Feb they are reported to be on the cusp of harvesting a huge crop. Which is it, genius? Get your facts right, or shut up. Moral of the story? We don't need UN involvement in strengthening policy, in fact that concept is totally scary to those of us who understand capitalism, and grasp what it's elimination will do to the world. Rather than hand-wringing pompous diplomats, what the third world could most use is a massive dose of capitalism. Through capitalism exponential innovation occurs. Little more is needed to ensure the world is well fed.

Philippines  |  April, 01, 2013 at 06:22 AM

I am the scientist who discovered in 1985 the true cause of climate change as "excessive emissions of acids from ground & seas brought about by melting polar ice that spreads to the seas, enter the underground through cavities". Its emission is responsible for the current drought. Proper approach in solving the problem is a must otherwise,the UN will be wasting time and money as it misleads the world anew. The world cannot afford to have amateurs fixing the problems. ROD COLENDRINO DOMINGO SURVIVAL SCIENCE

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