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Medical News and Perspectives
June 7, 2006

Desertification Called Global Health Threat

JAMA. 2006;295(21):2463-2465. doi:10.1001/jama.295.21.2463

Growing populations and unsustainable land use practices are causing the world's deserts to expand, swallowing previously productive lands and placing millions of lives in jeopardy.

According to the United Nations' Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, desertification threatens dry land areas that make up 34% of the earth's total land area and are home to about 2 billion individuals. It is occurring around the globe, including the United States, China, and many countries in western Africa. In these areas, pressure from population growth, climate change, and poor agricultural practices can cause these fragile ecosystems to become degraded. This degradation can cause mass migration, famine, massive dust storms, and political instability, all of which may contribute to significant health problems in affected regions.

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