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Climate Change in Africa Threatens Food Security, Health and Socio-Economic Development

FILE - A child swims in the floodwaters as others walk past, in the town of Beledweyne, in central Somalia, Nov. 4, 2019.
FILE - A child swims in the floodwaters as others walk past, in the town of Beledweyne, in central Somalia, Nov. 4, 2019.

The World Meteorological Organization is calling for urgent action to mitigate the impact of climate change in Africa, which threatens food security, health and socio-economic development on the continent. WMO has just launched a multi-agency publication, "The State of the Climate in Africa 2019."

The report presents a bleak snapshot of current and future climate trends in Africa brought on by an inexorable rise in warming. Since 1901, it notes Africa has warmed by more than one degrees Celsius, with 2019 among the three warmest years on record.

The World Meteorological Organization warns Africa faces many challenges brought on by climate variability, extreme weather events and sea level rise. A case in point is Tropical Cyclone Idai, which struck Mozambique in 2019. Idai, one of the most destructive tropical cyclones ever recorded in the southern hemisphere caused more than 700 deaths, widespread loss of homes, livelihoods and displacement.

The Food and Agriculture Organization reports the number of undernourished people in drought-prone sub-Saharan African countries has increased by 45.6 percent since 2012. WMO director of Regional Strategic Office, Filipe Lucio tells VOA many more people are likely to go hungry as a result of climate variability and change.

"With increased warming, we expect a reduction in terms of food production. We also expect impacts in terms of disease and pests," Lucio said. "But importantly, we will have impacts generated by flooding on the infrastructure system for agriculture production, which is the main source of livelihoods and food security in the continent.”

The report notes new diseases are emerging in regions where they had not been seen before because of rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns. For example, malaria epidemics have occurred in the higher altitudes of East African highlands where mosquitoes previously were unable to survive.

The economic impact on the continent is also great. WMO Climate Coordinator Omar Baddour says the Gross Domestic Product in five African sub-regions is expected to decrease by 2.25 percent to 12.12 percent as a result of global temperature increase.

"It leads to a jobless situation, have less economic activity, less employment and emigration, and so conflicts," Baddour said. "So, it is really an alarming indicator that we can see as an impact on the African continent.”

WMO urges African governments to increase their climate risk management strategies. These involve improving preparedness, prevention and early warning systems based on good data and weather forecasting.

It says Africa should employ techniques such as efficient and clean energy sources. It says solar-powered, efficient micro-irrigation, for example improves agricultural yields by up to 300 percent and reduces water usage by up to 90 percent. This, while offsetting carbon emissions.

WMO says these techniques have been shown to increase farm-level incomes by five to ten times where they have been employed.