Although the drought currently taking place in California and Texas — one of the worst in the last 100 years — has been dominating the headlines, the U.S. is not the only area this side of the Atlantic facing severe water shortages. Throughout Latin America, drought has been creating similar issues in multiple countries.
Sao Paolo, Brazil’s most populous city, is just one example of a drought-hit region. About 20 million people currently live in the city, and the water shortage has been ongoing now for several months. In the next three months, a main reservoir providing water to nine million of these residents is expected to go dry. Already, water rations have had an impact on everyday living. In some sections of the city, residents will not receive water for days, only to have the spigots open. Restaurants have had to get creative without a steady stream of water for cleaning, cooking and serving.
This strain is echoed throughout other countries in Central and South America. In Guatemela, 16 out of 22 provinces are in a state of emergency owing to water shortages. Crop losses in some areas are up to 70% — and crops, in many regions, are the mainstay of Guatemalan diet. many farming families have lost their entire crops or, similarly, herds of cattle.
“The drought has killed us. We lost all our corn and beans,” said Honduran day laborer Olman Funez in an interview with World Bulletin. The 22-year-old farmer earns a little under $5 per day, and says that he and his wife are rationing their remaining food.
In California, losing a crop might hit residents hard — especially since drought can lead to expensive home foundation problems as the land buckles with a loss of water — but most have been able to rotate or just cut down on the number of crops being produced. The impact of water scarcity has been hitting many farmers harder in the Central American regions because so many people — often at least 50% of the population — already live in poverty, and are just barely getting by. This past week, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) issued a statement saying that approximately 2.8 million people are now going hungry in these regions.
Right now, there is no easy solution for dealing with these droughts — in all likelihood, intense international aid will be required to help get the regions through this. Many countries, like Nicaragua, are allowing the import of beans and corn to help lower skyrocketing food prices that have resulted.