This week in Tanzania, at least 42 people have vanished from this mortal coil, their lives cut tragically short by the latest flooding. Hundreds more are homeless and several people are injured. Downpours that included hail and high winds caused a great deal of harm to buildings and roads, making rescue operations difficult. Unfortunately, this might just be the tip of the iceberg for the state. Most Tanzanians are subsistence farmers, and the deluge wreaked havoc on their crops. We hear about flooding in the news all the time. Sometimes it happens in our own backyards. I for one remember the flooding in Calgary like it was yesterday. Calgary is fine now though. So is Toronto which was flooded just after it. So what’s the difference? Infrastructure. Modern cities have superior infrastructure so that natural disasters do not become humanitarian disasters as well, but when these floods happen to people who build mud houses and are the poorest of the poor, the associated humanitarian crisis follows directly on the heels of the flood.
Southern Africa in general is not doing well, according to Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi. The volatile weather southern countries in Africa have been experiencing lately are throwing these developing countries into further disarray. On top of recent flooding, the combined death toll in the most affected countries claiming 300 lives, the region is also experiencing prolonged dry spells since the year began, threatening drought in countries that are unprepared to deal with the scale of recent disasters. You will recall that drought without critical infrastructure leads to famine, so Mozambique, Niger, Tanzania and other states may well experience a devastating famine. Economic growth is heavily dependent on, among other things, human capital. Human capital includes such factors as health and education. Unhealthy, uneducated, and underfed workers are the least productive. Since the GDP is basically the sum of all labour, and the average GDP per person determines typical wealth levels, it is not hard to imagine the deleterious effect this unstable weather could easily have on some of the nations (Niger in particular) that are already at the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index. Zimbabwe is another state that already has great trouble with human capital mainly due to HIV/AIDS and alleged military corruption. Famine is the last thing they need on top of that. While Zimbabwe’s tourism industry has been declining, since the ’90s, it is still an important source of income for the country owing to its breathtaking Victoria Falls. Famine is closely linked with exceptionally high levels of violence and such would naturally annihilate any tourism interest. Famine is the one disaster that has a tendency to turn people against each other, whereas all others offer at least the solace of communities coming together.
Unfortunately, the tragic events we reported on are in no way a full reflection of what has been going on in the world. If you would like to see all of our headlines from the past week, please click here.