The Stream, February 17: Four Famines Threaten Africa and Middle East

The Global Rundown

A drought in East Africa, as well as conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, could put 20 million people at risk of starvation in the next six months. Oil and agricultural development in Brazil’s Amapá state threaten the region’s forests and waterways. Residents of Mosul, Iraq are digging their own wells as a workaround for damaged water infrastructure. Argentina may deepen or widen the Parana River to alleviate barge backups and accommodate more grain exports. Scientists in Colorado kicked off a major NASA research project to remotely measure the water content of snow. Tropical storm Dineo brought heavy rains and floods to Mozambique. U.S. President Donald Trump signed legislation nixing a stream protection rule.

“The companies say there is no risk, but our traditional knowledge tells us this is untrue. We have four very important rivers and the sea has a huge influence on them. Fish populations and mangroves take years to recover from any contamination. BP and Total come here, but they never tell us anything. They must talk to us.” –Yanomami Silva, an indigenous Aika leader in Brazil, expressing concern over oil development in Amapá state. Communities in the region worry that the expansion of oil, agribusiness, dams, and mining will threaten their forests and waterways.(Guardian)

By The Numbers

4 famines Number that could occur simultaneously within the next six months, putting 20 million people at risk from starvation, according to United Nations officials. Conflicts and droughts are driving the food insecurity in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. Reuters

In context: Learn how a drought helped push Somalia into famine in 2011.

3 days Time it took for Haitham Younis Wahab and Shamsuldeen Ahmed Saed to dig a well in their Mosul neighborhood, using sledgehammers and shovels. After fighting damaged the city’s infrastructure, residents improvised wells and piping systems to reach water. The New York Times

7 people Number killed in Mozambique after tropical storm Dineo made landfall on Wednesday. Heavy rains associated with the storm could cause extensive flooding over the next several days. Reuters

Science, Studies, And Reports

Scientists began groundwork in Colorado this month for NASA’s SnowEx research campaign, an initiative that aims to find better ways to remotely measure the amount of water contained in snow. Eventually, the research will lead to more accurate predictions of snow melt, which feeds rivers and provides water to more than a billion people around the globe. EurekAlert

On The Radar

Citing his promise to “get rid of wasteful regulations,” U.S. President Donald Trump signed legislation nullifying a rule that prevented surface mines from dumping waste into nearby streams. The rule also required more stringent water quality monitoring by mining companies. Bloomberg

A surge in agricultural exports is snarling barge traffic along Argentina’s Parana River, a problem highlighted last month when a barge ran aground near Buenos Aires. The backups have prompted calls for dredging a deeper channel through the river, as well as plans to widen it. Reuters