Ann Brody Guy, College of Natural Resources
The vast region of Africa known as the Sahel will descend into large-scale drought, famine, war and terrorist control if immediate, coordinated steps are not taken to avert the perfect storm of climate change and the most rapidly growing population in the world, a group of experts from the University of California, Berkeley, and the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP), concluded in a report released today, which summarizes findings from the first international, multidisciplinary meeting on the region.
“The collision of population growth and climate change will lead to the misery of tens of millions of people and reach well beyond the region,” said Malcolm Potts, a professor of public health and lead author of the report. There’s been extraordinarily little investment in the region, said Potts, an obstetrician and family planning expert who was among the first researchers to identify and address the AIDS crisis in Africa. “AIDS killed 30 million people, but the disaster in the Sahel will be larger than that.”
The Sahel is a three million square mile band of arid and semi-arid land stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea and bordering on the Sahara desert. The United Nations projects that the population will leap from 100 million today to 340 million in 2050; there were just 30 million people in the Sahel in 1950.
Ethopian girl carries water to her village
The report summarizes a September 21, 2012, conference held at UC Berkeley and cohosted by Berkeley and the Kenya-based AFIDEP. It was the first such meeting to be convened on the collective effects of the problems facing the region, and proposed solutions. Working together, experts in demography, agriculture, climate change, national security and terrorism, women’s issues and Africa had alarming findings, including:
-Child marriage is common in the region, and a girl who is married in her early teens is unlikely to be able to learn to use family planning
-More frequent droughts caused by climate change will lead to significant starvation rates and fighting over diminishing resources.
-Unstable conditions are already breeding grounds for terrorism; increased instability will lead to a series of failed states, safe haven for terrorist activity, and, very likely, prolonged war.
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