Today is the World Day to Combat Desertification, a United Nations observance, and as I write these words a slow mass death at the hands of drought is occuring in Niger. Due to poor rainfall, the African nation, located in the Sahel, that region between the Sahara desert to the north and the greener savannas to the south, is experiencing a severe shortfall in food production. This is the human cost of ecological disasters. However innocuous droughts might appear, the toll they take on real human beings can be immense
Because of the increase in the price of food globally, and the fact that this is traditionally a time for people of Niger to experience food shortfalls, this drought has put these people just over the edge. According to Save the Children, it’s estimated that about one in eight children aged under five will probably die within the month unless there’s immediate action. About half the nation’s 15 million people are experiencing some form of malnutrition.
Save the Nation has noted that the response from the international community has not been as quick and as favourable as it could have been. Therefore, they’ve been calling on private donors to give to nongovernmental organizations working in the area to provide whatever relief is required. Though this is perhaps the only short-term solution available, I hope we can collectively recognize that what’s happening in Niger is a harbinger of future events that may become all too common and that we need to look to sustainable solutions. As long as we continue to live the way that we do — creating climate change — droughts and desertification will abound. We may face many more disasters like Niger if we continue on this path.