The New Humanitarian welcomes new CEO Ebele Okobi.

Find out more.
  1. Home
  2. Global

Ten stories on drought and disaster risk reduction

An estimated 55 million people are directly affected by droughts every year around the world.

Angola is facing its worst recorded drought in 40 years. It is not alone. Maria Olsen/EC/ECHO
Angola is facing its worst recorded drought in 40 years. It is not alone.

Related stories

The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed every year on 17 June to raise awareness about the risks. This year’s theme, “Rising up from drought together”, focuses on the need for early action to avoid more disastrous consequences. 

“We’ve been here before. We know what acting slowly does,” Jeremy Taylor of the Norwegian Refugee Council told The New Humanitarian for an April report on the unprecedented drought that’s pushing the Horn of Africa to the brink of famine. 

As experts call for a paradigm shift from “reactive” disaster responses to “proactive” preparedness and risk reduction-based approaches, here’s a selection of our recent reporting that lays out the scale of the problem and offers some paths forward:

A country-by-country guide to worsening drought in the Horn of Africa

A man gives water to his lambs in Kenya after losing 150 animals to drought.
Obi Anyadike/TNH
Abdel Mohammed has lost 150 animals to drought and tit-for-tat raids by neighbouring communities. He has just a handful of goats left. Isiolo, northern Kenya, November 2021.

‘We must meet the current humanitarian needs now if we are to avert an even bigger crisis in six months' time.’

What you need to know about the growing emergency.

Most aid funds go to just a few disasters. What about the rest?

Casualties were limited following a November earthquake and months of landslides that followed in Peru’s Amazonas region, but most residents in villages like San Isidro lost their homes and livelihoods.
Paula Dupraz-Dobias/TNH
Casualties were limited following a November earthquake and months of landslides that followed in Peru’s Amazonas region, but most residents in villages like San Isidro lost their homes and livelihoods.

‘If you don’t tell the story to the world, they’ll never know.’

Aid groups and governments respond to hundreds of disasters each year. But inadequate funding and a short attention span leave many survivors adrift.

In storm-hit Honduras, a climate crisis drives needs and fuels migration

Farmers wait during a distribution of food aid to families affected by the drought in the village of Orocuina, Honduras
Jorge Cabrera/REUTERS
Farmers wait during a distribution of food aid to families affected by the drought in the village of Orocuina, Honduras.

‘They’re already losing so much with the El Niño droughts before this. I bet more and more people are going to leave after this.’

Two hurricanes in two weeks is devastating, but decades of drought and corrupt land use is the longer-term problem for many Hondurans.

Q&A: Why the disaster prevention agenda is growing more urgent

Flood-affected people and livestock are ferried across a flooded field after heavy rains in Nagaon district, in India’s northeastern state of Assam, on 19 May 2022
Anuwar Hazarika/REUTERS
Flood-affected people and livestock are ferried across a flooded field after heavy rains in Nagaon district, in India’s northeastern state of Assam, on 19 May 2022.

‘We don’t have 10 years, 20 years, to get this more relevant.’

Preventing emergencies before they start, the climate crisis, and why humanitarian aid needs to factor in risk: A Q&A on disaster risk reduction.

Drought and deforestation: How Madagascar’s children are paying the price

Drought and sandstorms, a consequence of deforestation, are driving food insecurity in southern Madagascar, where an estimated 500,000 children under the age of five are suffering acute malnutrition.
Jacob Zocherman/TNH
Drought and sandstorms, a consequence of deforestation, are driving food insecurity in southern Madagascar, where an estimated 500,000 children under the age of five are suffering acute malnutrition.

'Some infants coming here don’t know how to eat.'

A paediatric clinic offers a window into the impact of drought and deforestation in southern Madagascar.

How climate data scarcity costs lives

Paula Dupraz-Dobias/TNH
Communities in the Peruvian highlands have increasingly struggled in the face of severe climate events, including a prolonged drought in 2021. The lack of weather data doesn’t help.

‘If you put junk into forecast models, you will get junk.’

In climate-vulnerable countries, a shortage of localised weather data makes it harder to prepare for disasters or adapt to a warming planet.

Why the conversation about climate change and migration needs to change

A man plants a tree on an arid patch of ground.
Ismael Adnan/Reuters
An afforestation initiative to combat desertification in Mosul, Iraq, 25 November 2021.

‘The climate crisis is not a standalone issue; it’s a product of a long history of exploitation, of inequality, of accumulation.’

Climate change is not driving mass migration to the Global North. That doesn't mean those most affected don’t need help.

In this age of climate crisis, humanitarians need to learn to love tech

Kylee Pedersen/TNH

‘As a sector, we have long been suspicious of tech, wary of the risks it poses and sceptical of the opportunities it brings.’

The aid sector has been too slow to seize on technology’s potential to improve disaster response. It should be a standard part of the toolkit.

Another drought looms. Is Afghanistan better prepared?

Herders watch over their livestock in Bamyam Province, Afghanistan. During severe droughts, herders are often forced to sell their livestock in order to cope, leaving them with little to rebuild their lives
Stefanie Glinski/TNH
Herders watch over their livestock in Bamyam Province, Afghanistan. During severe droughts, herders are often forced to sell their livestock in order to cope, leaving them with little to rebuild their lives.

‘I don’t remember a season as terrible as this one.’

The last major drought to hit Afghanistan offers a blueprint of the dangers ahead – and the pitfalls of a short-term aid response.

The Drought Diaries

This series focuses on the drought and its impact on families in Kenya, Somalia, and Zimbabwe.
TNH
This series focuses on the drought and its impact on families in Kenya, Somalia, and Zimbabwe.

Six families. Three countries. Six months.

Here’s what life is like in Kenya, Somalia, and Zimbabwe as drought takes hold in eastern and southern Africa.

Share this article

Get the day’s top headlines in your inbox every morning

Starting at just $5 a month, you can become a member of The New Humanitarian and receive our premium newsletter, DAWNS Digest.

DAWNS Digest has been the trusted essential morning read for global aid and foreign policy professionals for more than 10 years.

Government, media, global governance organisations, NGOs, academics, and more subscribe to DAWNS to receive the day’s top global headlines of news and analysis in their inboxes every weekday morning.

It’s the perfect way to start your day.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian today and you’ll automatically be subscribed to DAWNS Digest – free of charge.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.

Join