Josef Stalin didn't get to run the Soviet Union by being an idealist about human nature. "One death is a tragedy," he famously observed. "A million deaths are a statistic."
Severe droughts and floods triggered by one of the strongest El Niño weather events ever recorded have left nearly 100 million people in southern Africa, Asia and Latin America facing food and water shortages and vulnerable to diseases including Zika, UN bodies, international aid agencies and governments have said.
New figures from the UN’s World Food Programme say 40 million people in rural areas and 9 million in urban centres who live in the drought-affected parts of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Swaziland will need food assistance in the next year.
In addition, 10 million people are said by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) to need food in Ethiopia (pdf), and 2.8 million need assistance in Guatemala and Honduras.
Millions more people in Asia and the Pacific regions have already been affected by heatwaves, water shortages and forest fires since El Niño conditions started in mid-2015, says Ocha in a new briefing paper, which forecasts that harvests will continue to be affected worldwide throughout 2016.
Almost 1 million children are in need of treatment for severe acute malnutrition in eastern and southern Africa. Two years of erratic rain and drought have combined with one of the most powerful El Niño events in 50 years to wreak havoc on the lives of the most vulnerable children,” said Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala, southern Africa regional director of the UN children’s agency, Unicef.
“Governments are responding with available resources, but this is an unprecedented situation. The situation is aggravated by rising food prices, forcing families to implement drastic coping mechanisms such as skipping meals and selling off assets.”At some point, more likely sooner than later, all our wars, outbreaks, and domestic political squabbles will be drowned out by famine and famine-related diseases on a planetary scale. Charity rock concerts will no longer avail. The politics of the mid-21st century will be utterly unlike those we now consider normal—if a Hobbesian war of all against all can be called politics at all.