International Day of Combating Sand and Dust Storms Date in the current year: July 12, 2024

International Day of Combating Sand and Dust Storms The International Day of Combating Sand and Dust Storms is a United Nations international day observed annually on July 12. It was established to raise awareness of the devastating effects of sand and dust storms and encourage regional and global cooperation to manage and mitigate them.

Sand and dust storms (SDS) arise when strong wind blows loose sand and dirt from a dry surface into the atmosphere. They are a common meteorological hazard in arid and semi-arid regions, such as the dry regions of the Arabian peninsula, Central Asia, China and Northern Africa, and to a lesser extent the Americas, Australia and South Africa.

The size and frequency of sand and dust storms have increased over the past decades due to a number of factors such as climate change, poor land management, and pollution. Studies have shown that SDS have a negative impact on air and water quality, agriculture, climate and weather, human health, industry, and transport. This impact is very hard to control because human activity in one part of the world can cause SDS in another.

Aerosols (dust particles suspended in the air) impact weather and climate, both regionally and globally. The dust also has direct and indirect impacts on agriculture. It buries seedlings, impacts photosynthesis by absorbing and scattering sun radiation, increases soil erosion, and fills irrigation canals.

Dust from SDS also affects transportation by covering transportation routes and reducing visibility, damages aircraft, impacts the output of solar power plants, affects water quality in streams and rivers, and has other negative economic effects.

Airborne dust also presents serious health risks. Large particles can cause eye and skin irritation, whereas small particles can cause or exacerbate various respiratory disorders (allergic rhinitis, asthma, silicosis, tracheitis, pneumonia) and even enter the bloodstream, affecting internal organs and causing cardiovascular disorders.

In addition, airborne dust can contribute to the transmission of infectious diseases such as meningococcal disease (especially in sub-Saharan Africa where there is an entire region referred to as the meningitis belt) and Valley fever (coccidioidomycosis). Meningitis is one of the biggest health concerns in Africa alongside HIV and malaria, and the incidence of Valley fever in the United States has been on the rise in the past years.

A resolution establishing the International Day of Combating Sand and Dust Storms was introduced by Cuba on behalf of the Group of 77 (a coalition of developing countries at the UN) and China. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in June 2023 to facilitate regional and international cooperation in the prevention, management and mitigation of the effects of sand and dust storms.

The main goal of the International Day of Combating Sand and Dust Storms is to raise public awareness of the dangers of such storms and the importance of combating them for human health and well-being. SDS negatively affect the achievement of 11 of 17 Sustainable Development Goals on the 2030 Agenda therefore international cooperation is crucial in mitigating their effects on sustainable development.

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