Introduction. Climate change projections indicate that droughts will become more intense in the 21 century in some areas of the world. The El Niño Southern Oscillation is associated with drought in some countries, and forecasts can provide advance warning of the increased risk of adverse climate conditions. The most recent available data from EMDAT estimates that over 50 million people globally were affected by drought in 2011. Documentation of the health effects of drought is difficult, given the complexity in assigning a beginning/end and because effects tend to accumulate over time. Most health impacts are indirect because of its link to other mediating circumstances like loss of livelihoods. Methods. The following databases were searched: MEDLINE; CINAHL; Embase; PsychINFO, Cochrane Collection. Key references from extracted papers were hand-searched, and advice from experts was sought for further sources of literature. Inclusion criteria for papers summarised in tables include: explicit link made between drought as exposure and human health outcomes; all study designs/methods; all countries/contexts; any year of publication. Exclusion criteria include: drought meaning shortage unrelated to climate; papers not published in English; studies on dry/arid climates unless drought was noted as an abnormal climatological event. No formal quality evaluation was used on papers meeting inclusion criteria. Results. 87 papers meeting the inclusion criteria are summarised in tables. Additionally, 59 papers not strictly meeting the inclusion criteria are used as supporting text in relevant parts of the results section. Main categories of findings include: nutrition-related effects (including general malnutrition and mortality, micronutrient malnutrition, and anti-nutrient consumption); water-related disease (including E coli, cholera and algal bloom); airborne and dust-related disease (including silo gas exposure and coccidioidomycosis); vector borne disease (including malaria, dengue and West Nile Virus); mental health effects (including distress and other emotional consequences); and other health effects (including wildfire, effects of migration, and damage to infrastructure). Conclusions. The probability of drought-related health impacts varies widely and largely depends upon drought severity, baseline population vulnerability, existing health and sanitation infrastructure, and available resources with which to mitigate impacts as they occur. The socio-economic environment in which drought occurs influences the resilience of the affected population. Forecasting can be used to provide advance warning of the increased risk of adverse climate conditions and can support the disaster risk reduction process. Despite the complexities involved in documentation, research should continue and results should be shared widely in an effort to strengthen drought preparedness and response activities.
|Publication status||Published - 2013|