Tanzania, East Africa : Understanding the impact of drought on health and power generation

The topic of sustainability is particularly poignant in the context of one of the oldest known continuously inhabited areas on earth – Tanzania*. This low income country has witnessed six major droughts in the last 30 years. The spread of disease and the threat to power generation caused by water shortage top Tanzania’s list of climate-related concerns. A test case examining the drought-prone central region of the country fullfilled the vital objective of analysing the scope and severity of the threat, defining targeted prevention and treatment measures. It also highlighted an urgent need for further research into climate change in Tanzania and other African countries.

A strategy to reduce food-stress and drought-related disease

The population of Tanzania’s central region, comprising Dodoma, Singida and Tabora, is exposed to a range of serious drought-related diseases, in addition to the nutritional impact of lack of rainfall. Prevalent illnesses include malnutrition, trachoma (a sight-threatening eye infection), dysentry, cholera and diarrhea. New research shows that by 2030, even if the drought frequency and intensity remain stable, 5% of the region’s population will go hungry. In addition, 5% of the population will suffer from trachoma and almost 200,000 children under five from diarrhea. This would be accompanied by many serious cases of cholera and dysentry. More severe climate change would inevitably have a far greater negative impact. The study concluded that a portfolio of prevention and treatment measures could significantly reduce drought-related illness in future, while effective insurance could protect against crop failure.

Facing the risk of cuts in energy supply

By 2030, Tanzania will rely on hydropower for over 50% of its energy needs, 96% of which being sourced in the central, drought-prone region of the country. Valuable new research findings demonstrate that rising to this challenge is possible if certain efficiency measures are introduced. Numbering among the low-cost initiatives suggested are energy-saving awareness campaigns to reduce consumption, along with spillage reduction at the hydro stations. Resinsurance solutions could be put in place to cover potential economic loss resulting from shortfalls in power supply, for example in the business sector. The study also specifies areas where more information and research is required in order to create an accurate picture of the risk landscape. This would need to answer highly relevant environmental questions, such as the potential impact of carbon regulation and that of diversification into thermal power plants versus renewable energy.

* In Tanzania, fossil remains of humans and pre-human hominids dating back over two million years have been discovered.

GDP, %1

1 Based upon select regions analyzed within the countries (e.g., Mopti, Mali; Georgetown, Guyana Hull, UK; North and Northeast China; Maharashtra, India; Central regions of Tanzania; Southeast Florida, U.S.)

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