Drought conditions spur action in Mexico

Story highlights

  • Drought conditions are affecting 19 Mexican states
  • A government official says it is the worst drought in 71 years
  • Money, water and food are being distributed to the most needy

Rains will bring some relief to drought-stricken Mexico this week, but they will not be enough alleviate the bigger challenges, officials say.

Mexico is experiencing its most intense drought in 71 years, affecting 19 of the country's 31 states, according to Secretary of Social Development Heriberto Felix Guerra.

The result has been a shortage of drinking water that affects about half of the nation's territory, he said.

More than 2 million people in 900 communities are estimated to be affected and are expecting to receive 400 million liters of water from the government.

"We're prepared for the worst of cases," Felix Guerra said.

Rain this week in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas and in other hard-hit states are providing some relief, but the government is going forward with a large aid mission.

Even with the recent rains, the reservoirs in Tamaulipas were at 88.3% of capacity, said Roberto Schuldes Davila of the country's National Water Commission (Conagua), the state-run Notimex news agency reported.

In Durango state, the local Conagua director announced this week that 184 million pesos (U.S. $14 million)will go to aid those in the state who are facing potable water shortages.

The federal and state governments also were distributing food in the affected areas.

"The scope of the drought is serious, and attention to the most vulnerable populations is a priority," said Sinaloa state official Jose Antonio Perez Quesnel. "No one will be without that vital liquid for human consumption."

Among the most affected are the Tarahumara indigenous people of northern Mexico. The government has prioritized aid for the 23 towns in the Tarahumara region, where deaths have been reported as a result of hunger.

Many of those affected made their voices heard through a "Caravan of Hunger" comprising farmers who came to Mexico City to lobby for the additional measures.

"I planted a hectare of beans, and when it rains, I can pick up two tons of them, but now I didn't get more than a little flour bag of tiny beans," said Manuel Gonzalez, a farmer from Chihuahua state.

Another farmer, Felipe Cordova, said some growers were abandoning their fields out of necessity and were migrating to the cities, looking for opportunities.

The government has blamed climate change as one of the forces behind the drought.