Severe drought is when a region experiences a prolonged dryness without any adequate rainfall within the normal weather pattern. It leads to a rapid depletion in water resources as well as the ability to grow crops and produce foods. It is also known as an instance of mass population displacements in search of water and foods. However, given the predictable nature of a drought there are ways and means of avoiding catastrophes specially the ones related to health. Thus, this article will look into the health implications of a severe drought and the disease manifestations that become apparent during such instances.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) one of the main health implications of a drought is the compromised quantity and quality of drinking water. Without enough water falling on to the ground, the air quality can rapidly decline while the recreational risk would rise. Furthermore, the CDC points out that diminished living conditions related to energy, air quality, sanitation and hygiene could become apparent along with compromised food sources and nutrition. Overall, the incidence of illness and disease would become high and therefore the health of the population as a whole would also decline.
When discussing about specific health disorders, protein energy malnutrition is a common occurrence in remote parts of the world where severe drought threaten the lives of poor people. In most such instances, the amount of aid received by these people does not suffix the demand as a result of the sheer number of displaced population. Protein energy malnutrition (PEM) can lead to fatal outcomes if not corrected at an early stage and therefore during severe droughts, international organizations such as the WHO seek support from world over to care for these displaced populations to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.
In addition, micronutrient deficiencies such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also manifest when large communities are exposed to a severe drought and without adequate resources to maintain their daily living. In this regard, WHO describe multiple disorders such as vitamin A deficiency, iron deficiency, vitamin C, thiamine deficiency as well as niacin deficiency as commonplace during severe droughts in low resource settings. When looking at the health manifestations due to above micronutrient deficiencies, death from measles in instances of vitamin A deficiency, increase in child and maternal mortality due to anemia, outbreaks of scurvy, beriberi, and pellagra are the most dangerous. In addition, infectious diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera, diarrhea and acute respiratory infections as well as measles could also be present in a population devastated by a severe drought and could also lead to fatal outcomes.
Lastly, as pointed out by the WHO, the reduction in the buying power of the population, erosion of coping and caring capabilities as well as the limited access to health care services can increase the overall morbidity and mortality of the population during instances of severe droughts.