Leaders meet in Madrid to mark world day to fight drought


MADRID (AP) — Politicians and experts are meeting in Madrid on Friday to discuss ways to tackle drought and the increasing spread of deserts across the globe.

The half-day meeting to mark the United Nations’ World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought will be attended by Ibrahim Thiaw, executive secretary of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, or UNCCD.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is to give an opening speech and U.N. Secretary General António Guterres will address the conference by video.

The meeting will bring together numerous experts, including Kenya’s Patricia Kombo, founder of the PaTree Initiative to help Kenya achieve 10% forest cover by getting students to plant trees.

The UNCCD says that between 1900 and 2019, droughts have impacted 2.7 billion people in the world, and caused 11.7 million deaths. Forecasts estimate that by 2050 droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world’s population.

Spain’s Ecological Transition ministry says 75 percent of Spanish land is vulnerable to desertification and this is increasing.

The meeting comes as Spain is suffering an unusually early heat wave that has helped fuel wildfires across the country.

The focus of the meeting will be on encouraging early action to prevent disastrous outcomes.

“Droughts have been part of human and natural systems, but what we are experiencing now is much worse, largely due to human activity,” Thiaw said in a statement.

“Recent droughts point at a precarious future for the world. Food and water shortages as well as wildfires caused by the severe drought have all intensified in recent years.”


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