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What are the Effects of Drought?

Drought May Lead to Hunger, Disease, Even War

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Drought can have serious health, social, economic and political impacts with far-reaching consequences.

Water is one of the most essential commodities for human survival, second only to breathable air. So when there is a drought, which by definition means having too little water to meet current demands, conditions can become difficult or dangerous very quickly.

The consequences of drought may include:

Hunger and famine—Drought conditions often provide too little water to support food crops, through either natural precipitation or irrigation using reserve water supplies. The same problem affects grass and grain used to feed livestock and poultry. When drought undermines or destroys food sources, people go hungry. When the drought is severe and continues over a long period, famine may occur.

Thirst—All living things must have water to survive. People can live for weeks without food, but only a few days without water.

Disease—Drought often creates a lack of clean water for drinking, public sanitation and personal hygiene, which can lead to a wide range of life-threatening diseases.

Wildfires—The low moisture and precipitation that often characterize droughts can quickly create hazardous conditions in forests and across range lands, setting the stage for wildfires that may cause injuries or deaths as well as extensive damage to property and already shrinking food supplies.

Social conflict and war—When a precious commodity like water is in short supply due to drought, and the lack of water creates a corresponding lack of food, people will compete—and eventually fight and kill—to secure enough water to survive.

Migration or relocation—Faced with the other impacts of drought, many people will flee a drought-stricken area in search of a new home with a better supply of water, enough food, and without the disease and conflict that were present in the place they are leaving.

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