Examine the reasons why people continue to live in areas that have been affected by severe drought hazard events.

From the November 2015 DP Geography paper 2 exam


(a)  Many people continue to live in areas that are affected severely by drought even though the difficult living conditions. A drought is a natural disaster which extends over a period of at least 15 days in which there is a lack of precipitation of less than 0.2mm. A disaster is the fulfilment of a hazard, a threat to the economic and social welfare of humans, which requires outside help. Droughts typically occur within along the tropic of Cancer and Capricorn, however there are also anomalies such as north China. Two comparable examples of droughts are the East African drought in 2011 and the great drought of Ethiopia in 1983-85.

The East African droughts of 2011 is the worst drought in recent history and is believed to be responsible for the death of 50,000 to 100,000 people. Among other countries it also affected Ethiopia, which is why it is comparable Ethiopian drought of 1983-85. People continue to live in Ethiopia because they are not educated well enough and do not have the experience or qualifications to move away into other countries and look for jobs. This forces people to remain in Ethiopia and find alternative methods to deal with the drought. An immediate result of a drought is crops shortages and livestock deaths which result in a famine. With a lack of food people grow continuously weaker, are overcome with lethargy, and are unable to travel far distances. Sick family members tend to not be abandoned and even so there are family and cultural ties in their home cities.

The Ethiopian drought of 1983-85 affected nearly eight million and caused one million deaths, however it is uncertain to what extent the death toll can be attributed to the famine, and how many to the civil war. Shortly before the drought, the government had been over-thrown was unable to support the Ethiopian people. In addition, at the time the majority of the gross domestic product (GDP) derived from the agricultural sector, which employed approximately 80% of the working population. The water shortage resulting from the famine, drastically inhibited the agricultural sector and hence reduced the GDP. Soil erosion ensued and the once fertile soil had dried and was blown away. This resulted in unemployment, and due to a lack of qualifications, people could not simply migrate to other countries in search of jobs. Further Ethiopia was not the only country that was affected and so the neighboring countries were also restricted in taking up refugees. The travel into other safer countries would be very far and require a lot of energy and time. Through the loss of water, working animals such as dromedaries, camels, donkeys, and yaks were also weakened and facing starvation and were not of much aid in the transportation. The drought resulted in one of the worst famines in history and the resulting diseases, and lethargy were reasons why people remained in Ethiopia and did not move.

In conclusion it can be seen that people frequently remain living in drought prone areas due to a lack of knowledge about the hazards that a drought entail, or a there is no other options or people are forced to seek asylum in areas that are drought prone areas because there is are no other areas that they can move to. Another reason that people do not move away is because due to the resulting food and water shortage, the affected people are not able to travel large distances because they lacked the modes of transportation and they were too weak.


         Droughts are periods of abnormally low rainfall, leading to a shortage of water. The human body consists of 60% water which means water is essential to the survival of the human body. The average human can only survive up to five days without water which would lead to death. It would seem like madness to stay in a drought stricken area when we are so dependent on water. However, there are still factors that force some human beings to do the un thinkable which is to stay in a drought stricken area. Some of these factors would be extreme poverty, conflict between countries causing refugee crisis’s and forward thinking such as government water supplies and the creation of deep wells. This essay will compare and contrast two droughts, one located in a more economically developed country and one in a less economically developed country and investigate the reasoning as to why one particular human from both cultures may choose to stay in a drought stricken region.  
         The Sahel region of Africa has suffered drought on a regular basis since 1980. The Sahel is a very large region which spans across many countries. However, the worst affected by the Sahel drought was Niger in 2005. The main cause of the drought was human induced. Human activities such as overgrazing, over cultivation and the collection of firewood, has caused desertification which can be devastating when combined with the possibility of drought. Other than Uranium mining, the dominant economic activity in Niger is Agriculture. The agriculture economy in Niger is based on internal markets and the export of raw commodities with the largest industry being the cotton industry. When there is drought and desertification, this can lead to crop failure and soil erosion. When the country is so dependent upon the crop industry to fund the GDP especially when Niger is the 4th poorest country in the world with a GDP per capita of just $427.37. Farmers will find themselves very reluctant to abandon their cattle and farms when their entire family depend on the revenue generated from the industry. Niger is also located in land, which means Farmers will travel miles and miles to try and find water for their cattle without any luck. On top of that, their neighboring countries are also in land which means they will not have a coast to give free water to the cattle. Therefore, the people may not be able to afford to buy fresh water form their neighboring countries alongside the aspect of conflict amongst countries leading to tense boarders and lack of international aid.
         The 2000’s drought in Australia which was named the Millennium drought was considered to be the worst drought ever recorder. 2006 was the driest year to have ever been recorded for many parts of Australia. The official end of the drought was in early May 2012 which meant that the drought lasted 12 years. When the government officially declared the drought to be over in 2012, they provided a funding of $4.5 billion for drought assistance. Due to the hot and dry climate in Australia, the definition of drought is very much different to what we would consider a drought. The Australian government has created a criterion that a scenario must follow in order for it to be classified to be a drought. In Australia it is defined as rainfall being in the lowest decile over a three-month period. The main driver of the drought was the EL Niño effect. In 2006, John Howard, prime minister at the time made a rather controversial decision which was as follows; “unless there was substantial rain in the next six weeks no water would be allocated to irrigators in the Murray-Darling basin for the coming year”. Had this been the case, then 50,000 farmers would have been directly affected which would have had damaging effects on the GDP. However, this statement is also an insight as to why people may not have felt the area. As a start, Australia is very isolated with only New Zealand giving a “Helping Hand”. However, the PM says two very crucial words which would encourage the Aussies to stay in their drought stricken country. These words and “Water Allocation”. This is a clear indication that the Australian government has planned water distribution systems for when an emergency such as drought emerges, the country is well prepared. This is made possible due to the high tax revenue that the government earns. This means that the government is able to invest in safer water systems and reservoirs to avoid tragic droughts causing severe devastation.
         In conclusion, there are many factors that come into play when discussing droughts and abandoning the life that one has created. The average human can only survive up to five days without water which would lead to death. It would seem like madness to stay in a drought stricken area when we are so dependent on water. However, when places are so poor, they have rarely travelled further than 20 miles away from their home let alone another country. When a family is so reliant on the crops and cattle to feed their family then they will most defiantly be reluctant to leave. Likewise, in a richer country there is no need to leave the area because not only are they able to afford to buy water supplies, their high contribution to taxes means that the government is able to afford drought plans to distribute water during a drought crisis. 

Droughts occur after a long period of dry weather which leads to severe water shortage, droughts can be caused through human activity. Droughts occur due to a lack of precipitation, lack of soil moisture or reduced ground water levels. A drought happens over a period of time in which, there is inadequate or no rainfall over an extended time creating hydrological imbalances, soils drying out. Droughts accrue through continental between the tropic of cancer and Capricorn. This essay will look primarily at the decisions of why people live in drought stricken areas in an MEDC and in an LEDC and why they choose to not move. An example area of an MEDC country is California in 2014 and east Africa, LEDC countries in 2011.

California an MEDC country has the supplies in order to live in an arid environment. They have pre-stocked water and food making it easy to live in this area. Even though the drought is causing many farmers to lose their crop people that live in these areas have been educated on how to survive and how to manage with what little water they have. As well as they have the research and observations from previous years in order to make an estimated judgement on how long the drought will last. California is very economically developed and has a very big agricultural area. California has set rules and is experienced with droughts they are unable to water their garden and in order for people to keep these rules there is a set fine of 500 dollars for people who don’t obey the rule. There is a water supply system for the people of California it gives the people enough water to survive.  People that grew up in this area and are aware of the consequences and know how to cope with an ongoing drought, family is what keeps them in the area. Some people may not be able to afford it as well as it has not always been a drought, people may have been living there for multiple years before the drought started and have gotten use to the heat and high precipitation.

East Africa also referred to as the Horn of Africa had an ongoing drought in July 2011 which was believed to be one of the worst droughts in over 60 years and covers areas of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Sudan this drought occurred primarily due to no rain. These areas received 30% less rain than between the years of 1995-2010. The drought caused between 50,000 and 100,000 deaths, nevertheless people are not moving for multiple reasons. Economic considerations are important to keep in mind as these are poor countries people do not have the opportunities to move they cannot afford to move. Due to the civil war it would be dangerous and almost impossible to move around the country as well as people have no were to move to. Due to lack of aid and family members having possible infections and diseases they were unable to move large distances. As they are landlocked even if they were able to move they would still most likely not be able to go far enough to leave the area. As most people are not educated they have no way to prepare for an ongoing drought or have any knowledge on what the possible impacts are on them and their families. Families that own land and farms are more likely to stay as they have crop and cattle as well as family in the area. Their land is what keeps their family safe and alive. People living in these areas may have no choice as to stay and look after their families. These people living in these drought stricken areas cannot afford to move to another country and even if they had the opportunity to move they would be refugees in a political unstable country with a corrupt government.

In conclusion people live in drought stricken areas for multiple reasons. People living in California are aware of the consequences and are given set rules in order to survive as well as preserved waters. The government is prepared and aware of possibilities whereas in east Africa the people do not have these opportunities of stored food and water. However, they are too poor to do anything about it they have no choice as to stay where they are and work where they are as they are not educated enough to leave and possibly find a new job to provide for their families. Both countries have different reasons to stay main reasons being, lack of education, scared of the political arrangements, poverty and in the case of California trust in their government.


Why do people live in drought-stricken areas?

Droughts are abnormal periods of dry weather, characterized by low rainfall, ultimately leading to a shortage of water. Despite the risks of drought to humans and the environment, people still live in drought-stricken areas. This is a phenomenon that happens both in MEDCs and LEDCs. The lack of knowledge of secondary risks in fact doesn’t only inflict the population of East Africa, subjected to drought since 2011. In fact, population of California has been battling against drought events since the 1900s. People live in drought-stricken areas due to a lack of knowledge, including secondary risks, a lack of economic options, and they are also believed to be too trusting of the government. This essay will explore people’s lack of options when deciding to populate a drought-stricken area, in relation to their geographic area.
            East Africa started suffering from a severe drought from mid-July in 2011. Caused by failing rains, it is believed to be the worst drought in over 60 years. It has currently costed the lives of between 50,000 to 100,000 people. This number can’t exactly be identified as there could be a lot of factors that have led to these deaths. Currently, 1.2 million people are receiving food, but experts believe that it could rise to 2.5 million, while 40,000 children and women need lifesaving assistance. This drought has led to the development of life-threatening diseases such as diarrhea, a corrupt government and a famine. The East-African population lives in drought-stricken areas, primarily due to the fact that they have no other economic option. Their low-income salaries do not permit them to move elsewhere, causing them to live in a drought stricken area. The people’s adaptive behavior causes them to constantly try to look for new pastures to live in, in which they can grow their food and feed their cattle. However, due to the drought, 40% of the cattle has already died, and people have started to become less hopeful. Some people believe that the government might help. However, many of the East-African governments are corrupt. There is therefore no drought management while people are left to die.
            California has faced numerous droughts throughout the years. The most recent one also started in 2011, and the period between 2011 and 2014 was the driest in California’s history since record-keeping began. It hasn’t caused any fatalities, however, in 2013 the total rainfall was less than 34% of what was expected. In 2014, California’s 38 million residents experienced 13 consecutive months of drought. In this case, people live in drought-stricken areas because they are not fully aware of the serious consequences of drought events, such as wildfires. They only believe that droughts could affect the economy. In fact, in 2014, California’s 44.7 billion dollar agricultural industry produced lesser quantities of output after water allocations to farmland were reduced by 50%. California’s population believes that the drought will not affect them directly. They are also very trusting of the government. They believe that the US, as an MEDC, is able to provide for the population, and is able to fix the issue, however, it is much more complicated than that.
            People live in drought-stricken areas, primarily because they have no other economic option, because they are too trusting of the government, or because they are not aware of the serious consequences of droughts. In the case of East Africa, the population is aware of the consequences due to the catastrophic deaths and famine caused, however, they can’t do anything about it because their low income salaries don’t permit them to move somewhere else. In the case of California, people are not fully aware of the consequences drought might lead to, as they have only seen drops in the economy. Reasons of why people live in drought-stricken areas therefore vary according to the type of geographical area they live in, and their state of economic development.


In a lot of areas that are severely affected by droughts, the local people continue to live in the environment even though their lives are ruined by them. A drought is a period of time, lasting at least 15 days over which an area of land receives less than 0.2mm. The spatial distribution of droughts is mainly between 20-30 degrees latitude north and south of the equator, however there are anomalies such as in the south of Argentina and Chile. An example of an area where the people keep living in even though the country suffers severe droughts, is Ethiopia. Another example that will be used to show this, is the European drought of 2003.

The Ethiopian drought in 1983-84, was one of the worst disasters of the 20th century. Around one million lives were lost throughout this time, and 7.9 million people faced starvation in 1984. Before this drought, the government had been overthrown in 1974, causing a civil war that lasted until 1991. As a result of this, the government was corrupt, and could not spend any money on the locals in Ethiopia, and its population. Supporting the argument that the government did not have any money to spend on its people, is that when the drought struck the country, 60% of its GDP and 80% of employment was based on agriculture, which therefore could not be continued as water supplies were short, and the soil turned infertile. This caused a lack of medical aid, a lack of employment and no education. These factors restricted the ability of people living in this area to leave the country, causing them to continue to live in their old homes within Ethiopia. This is because the people were so uneducated during this time, that they could not find work anywhere else if they had left their country, as they would not have found employment due to their lack of experience and knowledge. In addition to this, the neighbouring countries were also suffering under the impact of this drought, meaning that it was too far to travel to the nearest safe country as no transportation routes were available to the people except travelling by foot or using camels/similar animals. The lack of medical aid, in addition to the civil war, brought a widely spread famine into the country. Many families could again not leave the country, because their family members were infected with this famine and were too ill to travel a large distance. This shows why people continue to live in the areas affected by severe droughts.

Another example of a drought where people continued to live in an area that was severely affected by droughts, is the European drought of 2003. This disaster claimed an estimated 30,000 lives from all over Europe and recorded the least rainfall and hottest temperatures for up to 500 years. Most of the affected countries had never experienced events such as wildfires and could therefore not react to them very well, with a lack of experience. The difference between this drought and the Ethiopian drought however, is that people did not stay within the area because of the lack of education or transportation routes, but because they trusted their government and insurance to recover from this drought, as all of the affected countries were in a stable political position. As a result of this, most of the people living in the affected areas, continued to live in their home towns. In addition to this, there were many refugees entering the countries, who were happy to have found asylum, therefore they did not want to leave the areas again.

In conclusion, people continue to live in areas that have been affected by severe drought hazard events, because of a lack of education, trust in the government to recover, political unrest or because of their poverty.