WPS GLOBAL EARLY WARNING TOOL DEcember 2022 QUARTERLY ANALYSIS

Figure 1. Global Early Warning Tool December 2022 Long Term Quarterly Forecast.  

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CONFLICT OVERVIEW 

PLACES TO WATCH FOR VIOLENT CONFLICT

These are selected areas where the model predicts at least 10 fatalities in the next 12 months in a given second subnational administrative unit that have linkages to water challenges. 

  • Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia: Drought continues in the Horn of Africa for a fifth straight growing season. It is now the longest and most severe drought in recent history and may continue well into 2023.
  • South Sudan: Heavy rains and flooding are now continuing into a fourth consecutive year.
  • West and Central Africa: Over 3.4 million people require humanitarian assistance in the wake of devastating floods in Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Cameroon.
  • Syria: Syria is facing “acute violence” and a rapidly spreading cholera outbreak. Severe drought is compounding the misery.
  • Iraq: Drought and high temperatures continue, with devastating impacts on rural communities.
  • Afghanistan: The World Food Programme estimates that 9 million people – nearly half of the population – have been acutely food-insecure between June and November 2022.
  • Pakistan: An extreme monsoon rainfall, together with an accelerated melting of glaciers due to soaring temperatures, utterly devastated Pakistan with flooding over the summer and into the fall season.
  • Morocco: Rainfall as of October 31 was 45% lower than normal, and cereal output fell by 67% compared to the prior year.

OTHER REGIONS AND ISSUES OF INTEREST

These are a few of the areas that are currently outside of the model's geographic scope but have water-related challenges. We are also following certain issues of interest.

  • Mexico: In August, the drought in Mexico eased as rain fell across much of the country. As of the end of August, the percentage of the country facing some level of drought fell from 41% to 27%.
  • United States: In the Colorado River Basin, the federal government is pushing states to come up with a deal of their own but is keeping open the option of federal intervention in case they fail to reach agreement on lowering water use. In the Mississippi River Basin, drought conditions have dramatically reduced river flows, forcing the US Army Corps of Engineers to undertake large-scale dredging to allow barge traffic to continue to flow.
  • Haiti: National authorities have reported over 1,096 confirmed cases of cholera and 244 deaths from October to November 2022.
  • Global Food Prices: Food prices have continued to come down from a peak of 159.3 points in March to 135.9 points in October.

STORIES WE ARE TRACKING

KENYA, SOMALIA, AND ETHIOPIA: DROUGHT NOW impacting FIFTH CONSECUTIVE GROWING SEASON 

Drought continues in the Horn of Africa for a fifth straight growing season. It is now the longest and most severe drought in recent history and may continue well into 2023. Nearly 21 million people are highly food insecure, with some areas of Somalia projected to face famine. But the world’s focus is elsewhere, leaving humanitarian response plans only about 50% funded. A host of other factors are making things worse, including the Russia-Ukraine war – a large percentage of the region’s grain imports come from Russia and Ukraine, and food prices in the Horn of Africa are consequently spiking. The current growing season is off to a very poor start, particularly in Kenya and southern Somalia. These regions are seeing rainfall of less than 60% of average. “Furthermore,” humanitarians warn, “preparations should be made for the likelihood that the March to May rains will also be below average, which would result in a record sixth consecutive poor season.” This is occuring in a region experiencing competition over water and pasture resources. The WPS Global Early Warning Tool's long term forecast predicts emerging or ongoing conflict throughout much of the drought-impacted region over the next 12 months. Extreme drought and acute food insecurity may be contributing to these predictions.  The tool's short term forecast also predicts conflict over the next two months.   

Drier than normal reservoirs are present East Africa. Source: Global Water Watch

SOUTH SUDAN: fourth year OF FLOODING 

Last quarter, we reported that South Sudan had been struggling with the worst flooding it’s seen in 60 years. Notwithstanding this and other challenges, humanitarian funding to South Sudan was being cut due to donor fatigue and a shift in donor focus to Ukraine. Heavy rains and flooding are now continuing into a fourth consecutive year. The UNHCR reported “Two-thirds of the country is currently experiencing flooding. Over 900,000 people have been directly impacted as waters have swept away homes and livestock, forced thousands to flee, and inundated large swathes of farmland, worsening an already dire food emergency. Boreholes and latrines have been submerged, contaminating water sources and risking outbreaks of diseases.” The WPS Global Early Warning Tool's short term forecast predicts conflict over the next two months.   

West and central AFRICA: flooding

Over 3.4 million people require humanitarian assistance in the wake of devastating floods in Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Cameroon. Nigeria, which has borne the brunt of this disaster, is facing its worst flooding in a decade. “Hundreds of lives have been lost, over 1.3 million people have been displaced, and more than 2.8 million have been impacted, according to UN estimates, as farmlands and infrastructure have been submerged.” The floods have impacted nearly 1 in 10 Nigerian residents and 33 of Nigeria’s 36 states. The WPS Global Early Warning Tool's long term forecast predicts emerging or ongoing conflict in many of these regions. The tool's short term forecast also predicts conflict over the next two months.   

   

Flooding on the Niger River in the Edo and Kogi States in Nigeria is seen from the difference between June 12 and October 2, 2022. Source:NASA Earth Observatory images by Lauren Dauphin, using VIIRS data from NASA EOSDIS LANCEGIBS/Worldview, and the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership and Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey

syria: ongoing drought

Syria is facing “acute violence” and a rapidly spreading cholera outbreak, and severe drought is compounding the misery. Water scarcity is making the cholera outbreak worse, and drought is contributing to the lowest wheat harvest since the war began in 2011. Food price spikes are causing food insecurity to spiral out of control. “Syrians today can afford only 15% of the food they were able to purchase three years ago,” according to a UN OCHA official. This is a very dire situation heading into the winter months. The outlook, unfortunately, is for continued low precipitation in the near future. The WPS Global Early Warning Tool's short term forecast predicts conflict over the next two months.   

Syria and monitored countries around the world are experiencing crises levels of food price spikes. Source: WFP

IRAQ: drought 

In our last quarterly update, we reported that Iraq had been experiencing continuous drought since 2020. Unfortunately, the drought and high temperatures continue, with devastating impacts on rural communities. A quarter of the 1,341 households surveyed by the Norwegian Refugee Council across (Anbar, Basra, Dohuk, Kirkuk, and Ninewa governorates) reported over 90% wheat failure this season. Another 25% reported no net profit from their wheat crop all year. “Prolonged drought spells have forced one-quarter of farming families to rely on food assistance amid a lack of harvest.” Climate change and the subsequent environmental consequences such as low rainfall and rising temperatures compound with structural and political challenges such as reduced river flows from upstream countries, lack of investment in infrastructure and poor water resource management. Consequently, tensions over water arise, sometimes erupting into violence, and forced internal migration due to loss of agricultural livelihoods. The WPS Global Early Warning Tool's long term forecast predicts emerging and ongoing conflict throughout much of Iraq over the next 12 months. The tool's short term forecast also predicts conflict over the next two months.   

The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and dams in the region.

AFGHANISTAN: DROUGHT AND failed harvests 

In our last quarterly update, we reported that Afghanistan was in the throes of unprecedented drought. Drought, flooding, and violent storms, together with the inability of the Taliban to manage water resources or water infrastructure in the country in an effective manner, and the economic implosion triggered by the Taliban takeover, were reasons why Afghanistan tops the list of insufficient food consumption globally.  

A recent report by the World Food Programme estimates that 18.9 million people – nearly half of the population – have been acutely food-insecure between June and November 2022. Catholic Relief Services reports that farmers are resorting to extreme drought and hunger coping measures. “Such measures include eating fewer meals, attempting to migrate, and selling off as much as 90% of their livestock to the point where recovering the herd becomes impossible.” Experts had held out hope that hunger levels would drop during the summer harvest season. The ongoing drought, however, has led to much smaller than normal harvests, forcing many families to sell land and livestock to buy food to feed their families. The WPS Global Early Warning Tool's long term forecast predicts emerging and ongoing conflict throughout most of Afghanistan over the next 12 months. The tool's short term forecast also predicts conflict over the next two months.   

PAKISTAN: devastating flooding 

Extreme monsoon rainfall, together with an accelerated melting of glaciers due to soaring temperatures, utterly devastated Pakistan from June to October. “Floodwaters drenched one-third of the country at one point, damaging or washing away more than 2 million houses, killing 1.2 million livestock animals, damaging 13,000 kilometers of roads and displacing 8 million people, including 644,000 living in relief camps.” As of this writing, the U.N. estimates that 7% of the territory is still inundated. A recent study estimated the damages and economic losses at roughly $30 billion. The study was conducted by the Pakistani government, the United Nations, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and the European Union.

In November, the World Health Organization warned that infectious disease outbreaks and malnutrition posed serious threats to eight million flood victims. The diseases include malaria, diarrheal diseases, dengue fever, measles, and diphtheria. “Among the biggest concerns are the high rates of severe acute malnutrition, especially among children under the age of five years… Access to safe water and sanitation remain limited, with people using contaminated water for household consumption.”

In addition to the water challenges, a failed assassination attempt on the former Pakistani PM is fueling increased political tension and protests.

The WPS Global Early Warning Tool predicts emerging and ongoing conflict throughout Pakistan over the next 12 months. The tool's short term forecast also predicts conflict over the next two months.   

MOROCCO: DROUGHT CONTINUES

In our last quarterly update, we reported that Morocco was still in the throes of its worst drought in 40 years. Rainfall as of October 31 was 45% lower than normal, and cereal output fell by 67% compared to the prior year. To mitigate the crisis to smallholder farmers, the government was planning to increase aid to farming communities to $339 million.  The WPS Global Early Warning Tool is predicting conflict in Morocco over the next 12 months only in the Oriental State, perhaps due to the country's relatively stable political situation.  The tool's short term forecast is predicting up to 10 conflict events in the Marraketch-Tensift-Al Haouz area over the next two months. 

OTHER REGIONS AND ISSUES OF INTEREST 

These are a few of the areas that are currently outside of the model's geographic scope but have water-related challenges. We are also following certain issues of interest.  

MEXICO: DROUGHT AND WATER SCARCITY 

In our last quarterly update, we reported that Mexico was suffering through intense drought that was leading to water scarcity and rationing across large swathes of the country. Reservoirs in northern Mexico that supply water to 5 million people were low or dry. The manufacturing capital of Monterrey had been especially hard hit.

In August, the drought in Mexico eased as rain fell across much of the country. Some places even had to contend with flooding. As of the end of August, the percentage of the country facing some level of drought fell from 41% to 27%. The governor of the northern state of Nuevo Leon – where Monterrey is located – declared the water crisis over, “but warned citizens they must reduce their water use to ensure there is enough of the vital liquid for future generations.” A recent article notes, however, that municipalities situated around the outskirts of Monterrey still lack access to clean water supplies, as a result of poor urban planning, poor water resources management, and lack of adequate water infrastructure investment.

UNITED STATES: drought expands to mississippi 

In our last quarterly update, we reported that drought across the US West continued to push water systems into “unchartered territory”. Water levels in the nation’s two largest reservoirs – Lake Mead and Lake Powell – were falling so low that they may soon be unable to export water to parts of Arizona, California, and Nevada that depend on them.   

In June, the federal government pushed the Colorado River Basin states to develop plans to reduce water use by 15-25% regionwide, but the states have been unable to reach accord. With the nation’s two largest reservoirs continuing to decline, federal officials have announced plans to “revise their current rules for dealing with Colorado River shortages and pursue a new agreement to achieve larger reductions in water use throughout the Southwest.” The federal government is pushing the states to come up with a deal of their own but is keeping open the option of federal intervention in case they fail to reach agreement.

Meanwhile, drought conditions in the Mississippi River Basin have dramatically reduced river flows, forcing the US Army Corps of Engineers to undertake large-scale dredging to allow barge traffic to continue to flow. The record-low river levels could result in billions of dollars of damages. According to a US Department of Agriculture meteorologist, “this is the time of year when a lot of the grain, the corn and the oil seeds are being shipped out for export through the Port of New Orleans… if you look just specifically at grain crops from the United States, about 60% of those exit through New Orleans ultimately, and so it is a critical highway for not just crops going out, but also things coming back. It's a two-way river because you've got things like fuel and fertilizer coming north. So yes, this is a big impact.”

Haiti: Cholera Outbreak

National authorities have reported over 1,096 confirmed cases of cholera and 244 deaths from October to November 2022, but as many as 12,894 people had suspected cases. Acts of armed violence and instability have been limiting health workers' ability to respond and constrain the outbreak.  

GLOBAL FOOD PRICE SPIKES 

In March 2022, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)  Food Price Index  reached 159.3 points – a record since its inception in 1990. Since March, food prices have continued to come down, to 135.9 points in October. “This marks the seventh successive month of decline in the index, which is a weighted average of world prices of a basket of food commodities.” Nevertheless, high food prices continue to exact a heavy toll on vulnerable populations worldwide.

ABOUT WPS AND ITS QUARTERLY ANALYSES

Water, Peace and Security (WPS) Partnership. The WPS Partnership offers a platform where actors from national governments of developing countries and the global development, diplomacy, defense, and disaster relief sectors can identify potential water-related conflict hotspots before violence erupts, begin to understand the local context, prioritize opportunities for water interventions, and undertake capacity development and dialogue activities.

The Long Term Global Early Warning Tool. Our Global Early Warning Tool provides the initial step in a multi-step process, employing machine-learning to predict conflict over the coming 12 months in Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia.  It does this on the basis of 15-20 global indicators that serve as model inputs. These indicators were selected as most significant in predicting conflict from among over 200 indicators tested. We define conflict as one that produces 10 or more deaths in any given second subnational administrative unit over a 12-month period. Generally speaking, our predictions of ongoing conflict are a lot more accurate than our predictions of emerging conflict. We continue to work on improving our model and extending its geographic coverage. So far it has captured 86% of future conflicts, successfully forecasting more than 9 in 10 “ongoing conflicts” and 6 in 10 “emerging conflicts”.[1]

The Short Term Global Early Warning Tool. We also predict the intensity and direction of conflict events over the next two months.  This sheds extra detail on areas experiencing conflict.  Our predictions have been on average within 2 events of the actual events.  Though the quarterly update focuses mainly on the 12-month forecast, information from the short-term forecast is also included. 

Quarterly analyses. We are publishing quarterly analyses to accompany our updated maps. These quarterly analyses flag some of the hotspot areas we are tracking and describe what journalists and other actors are seeing on the ground. While we are primarily concerned with water- and climate-related conflict, the tool is designed to forecast any type of violent conflict (and can therefore be used by a variety of users interested in conflict).

Our multistep process. Early warning is very important, especially given limits to the number of problems that national and international actors can track and address at one time. Our Global Early Warning Tool ensures that emerging conflicts can get the attention they need, early enough that potential risks can still be mitigated. Our regional- and local-level tools then support the next steps in the process and can be used to verify (or disprove) global model predictions, better understand regional and local conflict dynamics, and begin to identify opportunities for mitigating risk. WPS partners offer training and capacity development to global-, national-, and local-level actors to help them better manage risks. We can also help build constructive dialogues among parties to disputes (and other key stakeholders) that can engender water-related cooperation, peacebuilding, and design of conflict-sensitive interventions.

Do you want to learn more about how the Global Early Warning Tool works or how you can use it yourself? The WPS partnership has recently launched the first two modules of a free online e-learning module. Module 2 is dedicated to the function, generation and application of the Global Tool, including a practical walk-through to explore the tools’ capabilities yourself. You can find the course here: Module 2: The Global Early Warning Tool.

[1] The trade-off for this high recall is low precision for emerging conflicts. Around 80% of all emerging conflict forecasts represent false positives, that is, instances where conflict was forecast but did not actually occur. Ongoing conflicts are much easier to accurately predict and have both high recall and high precision (<1% were false positives). We continue to work on improving the early warning model and expect that future versions will be able to better predict conflict.

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