The crippling effects of drought and extreme weather conditions in West Africa should serve as a warning to the rest of the world, according to World Vision Australia senior economist David Lansley.
Dr Lansley’s comments come as global leaders gather in Brazil for the Rio +20 Conference on Sustainable Development.
The importance of sustainable agricultural and development practices has been highlighted by the critical plight of West Africa, suffering under the burden of drought, food shortages and consequent malnutrition.
But the situation didn’t eventuate without warning; some regions across the Sahel have seen mean seasonal temperatures increase by up to 2C between 1970 and 2006, as well as a decline in rainfall of up to 30 per cent.
More than 18 million people are affected, and Dr Lansley says a similar fate could await other countries if global environmental concerns continue to be ignored.
“The devastating effects of these shifts in climate – more droughts and floods with less recovery time between extreme weather events – contain a stark warning for the rest of the world,” Dr Lansley says. “As the global community meets to consider Sustainable Development Goals - a blueprint for a shared, equitable, sustainable future – we should remember the consequences of failing to act.
“As a meeting of governments, corporations and non-government organisations, Rio +20 will provide a unique chance for the global community to establish a new environmental and developmental agenda for the future,” Dr Lansley says.
In West Africa some four million children face malnutrition and there have been reports of some girls as young as seven being sold into marriage, and of children having to scavenge for locusts and leaves to eat.
The UN estimates it will cost $1.6 billion to provide aid to the countries requiring it.
Donate to the West Africa Food Crisis Appeal or call 13 32 40.
Media contact: Kate Rose – 0418 528 683 / firstname.lastname@example.org