Las sequías


Droughts, natural phenomena that have affected various civilizations throughout history, have become a global concern with devastating economic and human consequences. Since the beginning of the 21st century, these critical periods of water scarcity have experienced a 30% increase, according to UN data.

Over the centuries, droughts have left their mark on civilizations such as the Mayans, who invoked the god Chaac to obtain rains to revitalize their crops. However, the absence of rainfall is a situation that continues to affect approximately 55 million people each year today. History teaches us that drought is a reminder of the persistence of this challenge over time and is growing.


It is crucial to understand the difference between drought, aridity, and summer drought. Drought is defined as a water deficit in an area during a specific period, being the lack of rainfall being the fundamental variable. According to the UN’s Droughts in Numbers 2022 report, the number and duration of droughts have increased by 30% since 2000, linked in part to climate change and higher temperatures that increase evaporation.

Sergio Vicente, Research Professor at the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology, stresses that although droughts cannot be predicted meteorologically, their impacts can be mitigated with proper water management.


The aftermath of droughts covers multiple levels: environmental, economic, social, and cultural. Environmentally, there are adverse effects on pollution and plant production. At the economic level, sectors such as agriculture, hydroelectric production, and water quality are directly affected, leading to food insecurity, unemployment, and poverty.

The World Health Organization warns that droughts threaten the livelihoods of millions of people, with global economic losses of around $124 billion between 1998 and 2017, and more than 650,000 human losses between 1970 and 2019, with more than 90% being in developing countries.


In recent months, countries such as Chile, Argentina, Somalia, and Madagascar have experienced droughts that have captured global attention. Spain, France, Italy, Morocco, and Algeria are also among the worst affected areas. Sergio Vicente highlights the severity in the Cataluña and Guadalquivir basins in Spain, forecasting losses in rainfed cereal production.
In Chile and northern Argentina, the prolonged drought has caused significant agricultural losses, while in the Sahel and East Africa, the social, political, and economic situation magnifies the impacts of drought, with cases of migration and mortality due to lack of food.


These are cyclical but increasingly frequent and severe phenomena, threatening to change the world if we do not act immediately. This water shortage, which initially affected mainly Africa, is now spreading to all continents, from Asia and the Pacific to Europe.

To counteract the effects of droughts, it is necessary to optimize water use, promote water efficiency, and adopt water resource management tools. Inaction could lead to more than 75% of the world’s population being affected by droughts by 2050, the UN warns. Addressing this global situation requires immediate and collaborative action to build resilient systems capable of coping with droughts and preserving our planet for future generations.


If no action is taken, we are heading toward a future where fresh water and productive soils will be a distant dream for billions of people. It is projected that by 2050, 216 million people could be forced to migrate due to droughts. This scenario would affect not just millions, but billions of people, generating tensions, famine, and huge economic losses that would affect the entire global population and hinder progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.


Although the magnitude of the challenge is considerable, there is hope. Unlike other hazards, droughts are predictable and develop slowly, making it possible to anticipate them. The key lies in massive knowledge sharing, training, good governance, and adequate financing. Communities affected by the climate change crisis need support to adapt agricultural techniques, manage land, and build resilience.