Lack of water could displace 700 million Africans: While Africa is the world’s lowest emitting region for greenhouse gases, water scarcity is likely to become an increasingly powerful driver of migration.
Lack of water could displace 700 million Africans
Water stress in Africa currently affects about 250 million people and could displace as many as 700 million by 2030, according to a report on the state of the climate in Africa released on Thursday, September 8 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Entitled “Africa state of climate: increasing demand and decreasing supply of water may worsen conflicts”, the report states that “climate-related migration is likely to contribute to the concentration of populations and the creation of overcrowded and informal areas. This could increase the potential for tensions and conflicts between communities.”
Water shortages have already been the cause of clashes in Cameroon’s Far North, resulting in several thousand internally displaced persons and more than 30,000 refugees in neighboring Chad as of December 2021, the report recalls, citing the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Major impacts on the agricultural sector
The report also reveals that four out of five African countries will not have sustainably managed water resources by 2030, noting that the total area of Lake Chad, located on the borders of Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger, has shrunk from 25,000 km² in the 1960s to 1,350 km² today.
“The deepening crisis and looming famine in the drought-ridden Horn of Africa show how climate change can exacerbate water shocks, threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and destabilize entire communities, countries and regions,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas was quoted as saying in the report.
“Africa’s climate has warmed more than the average global climate since pre-industrial times (1850-1900). At the same time, sea levels are rising faster along the African coast than the global average. This is contributing to increased frequency and severity of flooding and coastal erosion, as well as salinity in low-lying cities. Changes in continental water bodies have major impacts on the agricultural sector, ecosystems and biodiversity,” he continued.
Losses estimated at over $70 billion
Noting that 2021 was “the third or fourth hottest year on record in Africa, depending on the baseline used,” the WMO also said that droughts have claimed the lives of more than half a million people and caused economic losses of more than $70 billion on the continent over the past 50 years.
Africa, which accounts for only about 2-3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, has warmed at an average rate of about +0.3°C/decade between 1991 and 2021. This is faster than the +0.2°C/decade warming observed over the period 1961-1990.
Faced with this major disruption, the WMO stresses the need to mobilize more financial resources to enable people to adapt to future climate shocks, and calls on the countries of the continent to develop early warning systems to reduce the impact of disasters. Africa remains the least equipped region in the world in terms of early warning systems, with only 40% of the population covered.