Scientists say that the Middle East is “particularly vulnerable” to climate change due to one major factor – water. Vice News reports that, “within the last seven years, the region has lost enough water to fill the Dead Sea and by 2040, 14 of the 33 most water stressed countries on Earth will be in the Middle East.” Research is also finding that those hit the hardest are… women.
A new study written by Nadia Al-Mudaffar Fawzi, a Marine Ecologist at Iraq’s University of Basrah, found that a 5,000 year old Iraqi culture known as the Arab Marsh (Ma’dan) was disappearing as a direct result of climate change, and that the society’s women were bearing the fiercest brunt of it. “The Marsh Arabs used to live in the middle of the water, surrounded by everything green,” reports Ms. Fawzi. “The fields, the reeds, and the water buffalo were around them. Now they have to walk five, ten kilometers to reach resources. The land is dry and brown.”
As a result of climate change, these marshes are undergoing a process of “desertification.” Natural resources which the Ma’dan people depend on, such as the reeds used to make their iconic mudhif houses, are disappearing along with the water.
Ms. Fawzi says that the disappearance of resources directly affects the role of the Ma’dan women. “The whole situation in the marshes is completely different from what I saw before, in the ’70s and early ’80s,” says Ms. Fawzi. “Women used to play a role in the ecological system. They used to work with men in gathering reeds and in fishing, and we would see them in the market when they come and sell their produce, like the fish, and the milk from the buffalo, the cheese and the yogurt that they make.”