Vital Signs - Health security in South Africa: Chapter 4: Climate, drought, food security and health

Published in Vital Signs - Health security in South Africa. The Brenthurst Foundation, 2020

Recommended citation: Parks RM, McLaren M, Rivett U, Thomson M (2020) Vital Signs - Health security in South Africa: Chapter 4: Climate, drought, food security and health. The Brenthurst Foundation.

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In October 2017, the mayor of Cape Town predicted that the city, with over four million citizens, would run out of water by the following March. The event was termed ‘Day Zero’, the day the city’s taps would be shut off. The idea that Cape Town could be the first major advanced city in history to run out of water captured the world’s attention. While the crisis was ultimately averted through the arrival of the winter rains alongside substantial water conservation measures achieved by households, it brought into sharp relief how vulnerable the population of the city, and by extension the entire country, was to extreme climate events. There are several detailed reports of impacts and lessons learned from the crisis,1 though the long-term implications of the drought in Cape Town will take many years to fully understand. Nevertheless, the Day Zero crisis caused strain on the health and well-being of the population of Cape Town, as well as the economy. It also highlighted the potential of an environmental disaster that, if poorly managed, can plunge a modern advanced society, albeit with complicating third-world features, into a crisis