The Stream, March 23: Drought and Conflict Leave 124m People Facing Acute Hunger

The Global Rundown

124 million people across 51 countries face acute hunger due to drought and conflict, according to a UN report. A new analysis shows that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch weighs 87,000 tons and is twice the size of Texas. A field test by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) successfully harvests water from desert air. In Indonesia, women are forced to swim several kilometers to gather clean water for their remote fishing villages. As the World Water Forum takes place in Brasília, persecuted river defenders in Brazil hold an alternative forum. In the wake of the three hottest years on record, 2018 begins with a wave of severe weather.

“The start of 2018 has continued where 2017 left off – with extreme weather claiming lives and destroying livelihoods.” –Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the United Nations World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), in reference to the harmful weather extremes witnessed in 2018 so far, including heat waves in Australia, freak warmth in the Arctic, and water shortages in Cape Town. The WMO report also noted that disaster losses from weather and climate-related events in 2017 totaled an estimated $320 billion, a record after adjustment for inflation. Reuters

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By The Numbers

124 million Number of people facing acute hunger due to drought and conflict in 51 countries, according to a new United Nations report. The report found that food emergencies are typically determined by a mix of conflict, extreme climate shocks, and rising food prices. UN News

4 kilometers Distance that women in Indonesia’s Tinambung district must swim in order to fetch clean water for their villages. Water in the district’s remote fishing villages is undrinkable, forcing “water collectors” to swim upstream daily to access clean water wells. Channel NewsAsia

1.8 trillion Estimated number of plastic pieces in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a mass of floating garbage in the North Pacific. Recent analysis found that the garbage patch weighs as much as 43,000 cars, is twice the size of Texas, and is made up largely of plastic. Researchers hope the studying the makeup of the mass will aid in clean-up efforts. PBS NewsHour

Science, Studies, And Reports

Researchers at MIT have developed a device that extracts water from desert air. The solar-powered device, which was first proposed last year, has now been successfully field tested in the dry air of Tempe, Arizona. Although more work is needed to scale up the process, the technology holds potential for producing drinking water in extremely arid locations. MIT News

On The Radar

In a park near this week’s World Water Forum in Brasília, community activists and “river defenders” set up an alternative forum to discuss the negative impacts of fracking, dams, and water privatization on Brazil’s rivers. Such ventures have frequently destroyed the livelihoods and drinking water sources of Brazilian communities, and activists trying to defend the rivers are often murdered or criminalized. The Guardian

In context: Murder of of activists defending safe water and environment rise sharply.

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