Think about that for a minute. Fifty million people all looking for food, water and a roof over their heads.
A UN report says desertification could create 50-million refugees within ten years.
Ten years, in the greater scheme of things, amounts to scant moments in which to put into effect the measures that will be needed to respond to this threat. Yes, it's far more than just a problem, it's a threat.
The UN has identified sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia as the areas that will be most affected. The report notes that desertification currently affects the lives of between 100-200 million people and, in the long-term, could impact on a third of the world's population or two-billion people.
There are a number of causes for desertification but the main culprits are soil exhaustion from over-farming and excessive irrigation depleting groundwater resources. Naturally, global warming significantly compounds these effects.
Fifty-million refugees have an enormous spillover effect. The places into which they must first migrate and find sustenance will be those already stressed and least able to accomodate more mouths. It's an apocalyptic scenario.
"There is a chain reaction. It leads to social turmoil," said Zafaar Adeel, the study's lead author and head of the UN University's International Network on Water, Environment and Health.
What are the answers? Right now there aren't many. Whole economies need to be transformed and they really don't have the resources necessary for much choice in how to survive.
Perhaps before we worry about answers we'd do well to ask ourselves some hard questions. Are we willing to take responsibility for alleviating this looming crisis and, if so, just what are we able and prepared to do about it? Ultimately we may have to weigh how much of our wealth we're willing to surrender for these peoples' survival?