Countries bear cross-border responsibility for harmful impact of climate change
by OHCHR, UN Child Rights Committee, agencies
2:20am 7th Oct, 2021
UN Child Rights Committee rules that countries bear cross-border responsibility for harmful impact of climate change
In a historic ruling on the harmful effects of climate change on children's rights, the Child Rights Committee has found that a State party can be held responsible for the negative impact of its carbon emissions on the rights of children both within and outside its territory.
The Child Rights Committee (CRC) published its ruling -- the first such ruling by an international body -- today, after examining a petition filed by 16 children from 12 countries against Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey in 2019.
The children claimed that these five countries, which were historic emitters and had recognised the competence of the Committee to receive petitions, had failed to take necessary preventive measures to protect and fulfil children's rights to life, health, and culture.
The children also argued that the climate crisis is not an abstract future threat and that the 1.1°C increase in global average temperature since pre-industrial times has already caused devastating heat waves, fostering the spread of infectious diseases, forest fires, extreme weather patterns, floods, and sea-level rise. As children, they claimed, they were among the most affected by these life-threatening impacts, both mentally and physically.
The Committee held five oral hearings with the children's legal representatives, the States' representatives and third party intervenors between May and September 2021. It also heard the children directly. In this historic ruling, the Committee found that the States concerned exercised jurisdiction over those children.
"Emitting States are responsible for the negative impact of the emissions originating in their territory on the rights of children -- even those children who may be located abroad. The collective nature of the causes of climate change must not absolve a State from its individual responsibility," said Committee member Ann Skelton.
"It is a matter of sufficiently proving that there is a causal link between the harm and the States' acts or omissions," Skelton added.
In this case, the Committee determined that Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey had effective control over the activities that are the sources of emissions that contribute to the reasonably foreseeable harm to children outside their territories.
It concluded that a sufficient causal link had been established between the harm alleged by the 16 children and the acts or omissions of the five States for the purposes of establishing jurisdiction, and that the children had sufficiently justified that the harm that they had personally suffered was significant.
The Committee was, however, unable to adjudicate on whether the States parties in this specific case had violated their obligations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The complaints procedures require that petitions are only admissible after the complainants have taken the claim to the national courts and already exhausted legal remedies that may be available and effective in the countries concerned before bringing their complaint to the Committee.
UN recognition of human right to healthy environment gives hope for planet’s future – human rights expert
The United Nations Human Rights Council’s recognition today of the human right to a healthy environment is a historic breakthrough that has the potential to improve the life of everyone on the planet, says David Boyd, UN special rapporteur on human rights and environment.
“The world’s future looks a little bit brighter today,” Boyd said. “The United Nations, in an historical development, has for the first time recognised that everyone, everywhere, has a human right to live in a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
“This has life-changing potential in a world where the global environmental crisis causes more than nine million premature deaths every year,” he said.
“It can spark constitutional changes and stronger environmental laws, with positive implications for air quality, clean water, healthy soil, sustainably produced food, green energy, climate change, biodiversity and the use of toxic substances.”
Recognition of this right had also been endorsed by UN Secretary General António Guterres, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and 15 UN agencies, and was supported by young activists and more than 1,300 civil society organisations from around the world.
“This resolution is especially important for all of the environmental human rights defenders working, often at great personal risk, to safeguard the land, air, water and ecosystems that we all depend on,” Boyd said.
“It is also vital for the people and communities who suffer disproportionate impacts of environmental degradation, including women, children, indigenous and other potentially vulnerable and marginalized populations.”Boyd urged governments to incorporate the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment in their constitutions and legislation.
He urged leaders to put human rights at the centre of their actions.
“In a world that too often emphasizes the differences between people, the right to a healthy environment reflects a fundamental truth that should unite us all,” Boyd said.
“Everyone’s health and quality of life depends on clean air, safe water, sustainably produced food, a stable climate, and healthy biodiversity and ecosystems. We are all extraordinarily fortunate to live on this miraculous planet, and we must use the right to a healthy environment to ensure governments, businesses and people do a better job of taking care of the home that we all share.”
IPCC report on the climate crisis a “code red” for humanity - Fridays for Future
The UN secretary general, António Guterres, called the recent IPCC report on the climate crisis a “code red” for humanity. “We are at the verge of the abyss,” he said.
You might think those words would sound some kind of alarm in our society. But, like so many times before, this didn’t happen. The denial of the climate and ecological crisis runs so deep that hardly anyone takes real notice any more. Since no one treats the crisis like a crisis, the existential warnings keep on drowning in a steady tide of greenwash and everyday media news flow.
And yet there is still hope, but hope all starts with honesty.
Because science doesn’t lie. The facts are crystal clear, but we just refuse to accept them. We refuse to acknowledge that we now have to choose between saving the living planet or saving our unsustainable way of life. Because we want both. We demand both.
But the undeniable truth is that we have left it too late for that. And no matter how uncomfortable that reality may seem, this is exactly what our leaders have chosen for us with their decades of inaction. Their decades of blah, blah, blah.
Science doesn’t lie. If we are to stay below the targets set in the 2015 Paris agreement – and thereby minimise the risks of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control – we need immediate, drastic, annual emission reductions unlike anything the world has ever seen.
And since we don’t have the technological solutions which alone will do anything close to that in the foreseeable future, it means we have to make fundamental changes to our society.
We are currently on track for at least a 2.7C hotter world by the end of the century – and that’s only if countries meet all the pledges that they have made. Currently they are nowhere near doing that. We are “seemingly light years away from reaching our climate action targets”, to once again quote Guterres.
In fact, we are speeding in the wrong direction. 2021 is currently projected to experience the second-biggest emission rise ever recorded, and global emissions are expected to increase by 16% by 2030 compared with 2010 levels.
According to the International Energy Agency, only 2% of governments’ “build back better” recovery spending has been invested in clean energy, while at same time the production and burning of coal, oil and gas was subsidised by $5.9tn in 2020 alone.
The world’s planned fossil fuel production by the year 2030 accounts for more than twice the amount than would be consistent with the 1.5C target.
This is science’s way of telling us that we can no longer reach our targets without a system change. Because doing so would require tearing up contracts and abandoning deals and agreements on an unimaginable scale – something that is simply not possible in the current system.
In short, we are totally failing to even reach targets that are completely insufficient in the first place. Surely the first step to address the climate crisis should be to include all of our actual emissions into the statistics in order to obtain a holistic overview. This would allow us to evaluate the situation and start making the necessary changes.
But this approach has not been adopted – or even proposed – by any world leaders. Instead they all turn to communication tactics and PR in order to make it seem as if they are taking action. The truth is there are no climate leaders. Not yet. At least not among high-income nations. The level of public awareness and the unprecedented pressure from the media that would be required for any real leadership to appear is still basically nonexistent.
Science doesn’t lie, nor does it tell us what to do. But it does give us a picture of what needs to be done. We are of course free to ignore that picture and remain in denial. Or to go on hiding behind clever accounting, loopholes and incomplete statistics. As if the atmosphere would care about our frameworks. As if we could argue with the laws of physics.
As Jim Skea, a leading IPCC scientist, put it: “Limiting warming to 1.5C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics, but doing so would require unprecedented changes.” For the Cop26 in Glasgow to be a success it will take many things. But above all it will take honesty, solidarity and courage.
The climate and ecological emergency is, of course, only a symptom of a much larger sustainability crisis. A social crisis. A crisis of inequality that dates back to colonialism and beyond.
A crisis based on the idea that some people are worth more than others and, therefore have the right to exploit and steal other people’s land and resources. It’s all interconnected. It’s a sustainability crisis that everyone would benefit from tackling. But it’s naive to think that we could solve this crisis without confronting the roots of it.
Things may look very dark and hopeless, and given the torrent of reports and escalating incidents, the feeling of despair is more than understandable. But we need to remind ourselves that we can still turn this around. It’s entirely possible if we are prepared to change. The clock is ticking.
http://fridaysforfuture.org/ http://all4climate2021.org/ http://www.unicef.org/press-releases/one-billion-children-extremely-high-risk-impacts-climate-crisis-unicef http://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/library/born-climate-crisis-why-we-must-act-now-secure-childrens-rights http://www.savethechildren.net/news/climate-crisis-710-million-children-live-countries-high-risk http://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n1734 http://www.pik-potsdam.de/en/news/latest-news/today2019s-children-to-experience-two-to-seven-times-more-extremes-than-their-grandparents http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/
COP26: Act now on climate crisis or millions more will be pushed into hunger and famine
From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, extreme weather linked to climate change is causing misery and hunger for millions of people – 811 million are currently going hungry around the world, a figure that will balloon exponentially if the 196 countries that signed up to the Paris Agreement in 2015 do not fulfil their obligations.
Developed countries promised to furnish the finance and resources that vulnerable, lower-income countries need to adapt to the devastating consequences of the crisis.
For this reason, COP26, the UN’s big climate change summit kicking off in Glasgow on Sunday, is a critical moment.
We must recognize that in seeking to limit global warming to 1.5°C, keeping ‘well below’ 2°C, the international community is trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted – but close it we must to avert a catastrophe.
(As the UN’s climate change site puts it: “To achieve this long-term temperature goal, countries aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate-neutral world by mid-century.”)
And no one is exempt. This year there have been devastating floods in Germany and New York. Italy registered the hottest temperature ever recorded in Europe – 48.8°C. Wildfires wreaked havoc on popular holiday destinations in Greece and Turkey.
Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen are among countries where 584,000 people currently face famine-like conditions as climate change intersects with the other huge driver of hunger, conflict – pushing 42 million to the brink of famine.
World Food Programme (WFP) climate and disaster risk prevention chief Gernot Laganda explains: “Natural resources such as clean water and fertile land are becoming scarce and competition over these resources is becoming fiercer. This is leading to a toxic interplay between the climate crisis, conflict and hunger.”
According to the latest figures, if the earth’s temperature were to rise 4°C above pre-industrial levels, 1.8 billion more people would be pushed into hunger.
For a measure of the challenge that would pose, consider: WFP, with a 20,000-strong workforce across more than 80 countries, currently aims to reach 100 million people and needs US$6.6 billion to avert famine.
Last week Petteri Taalas, head of the World Meteorological Organization, summed up the urgency of the task at hand: “The rapid shrinking of the last remaining glaciers in eastern Africa, which are expected to melt entirely in the near future, signals the threat of imminent and irreversible change to the earth system.”
At the two-week conference hosted by the UK and Italy in Scotland, it is not just the fact of the climate crisis that WFP, other UN agencies and humanitarian partners seek to highlight, it’s our collective duty to assess how we are responding, to collaborate, coordinate and act.
Emergency response is a core aspect of WFP’s work, as the organization showed following cyclone Idai in Mozambique in 2019 and more recently after the earthquake in Haiti.
But what we prefer to do is see climate hazards coming before they turn into disasters – using early-warning data to trigger financial support; restoring degraded ecosystems as natural shields; and protecting the most vulnerable with safety nets and insurance against climate extremes.
WFP climate risk management reaches more than 6 million people in 28 countries. In Bangladesh, in July last year, WFP supported 120,000 people with cash assistance four days ahead of severe flooding that was forecast along the Jamuna river. This money was used by people to buy food and medicine, protect critical assets, and transport livestock and families to safe places.
By using early warning data to trigger early action, WFP empowers households to prepare for flood impacts and prevent losses and damages. This reduces the cost of the emergency response.
In Chad, WFP works in the arid Sahel belt to establish tree nurseries that produce around 1 million tree seedlings a year. The trees help reclaim degraded land, recharge groundwater tables, capture thousands of tons of carbon dioxide, enabling the production of nutritious food.
In Central America, WFP has supported over 32,200 vulnerable people across the ‘dry corridor’ in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to adapt to the impacts of drought and improve livelihoods through activities that create incomes.
In 2020 WFP protected 1.2 million people in Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe and the Gambia from catastrophic drought events with climate-risk insurance, through its African Risk Capacity Replica initiative.
In southern Madagascar, WFP’s launched a micro-insurance programme for farmers in the drought-afflicted districts of Amboasary and Ambovombe. After a failed first planting season, nearly 3,500 households received payouts of US$100 each to cover the full loss of their maize harvests.
At COP26 we want governments to recognize the importance of shifting from crisis response to risk management – and to achieve this we need commitments to more predictable, flexible, and longer-term funding.
Fostering a spirit of collaboration is critical. Humanitarian organizations are experienced risk managers. They must be recognized as a resource for governments in their efforts to increase the resilience of food systems. These are broken and need to be fixed. The good news is they can be. But we must act now.
The world faces an exponential increase in hunger fuelled by the climate crisis if urgent global action to help communities adapt to climatic shocks and stresses is ignored, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warns on World Food Day.
A WFP analysis shows that a 2°C rise in average global temperature from pre-industrial levels will see at least 189 million additional people in the grips of hunger.
Vulnerable communities, a vast majority of whom rely on agriculture, fishing, and livestock and, who contribute the least to the climate crisis, will continue to bear the brunt of the impacts with limited means to cushion the blow.
“Large swathes of the globe, from Madagascar to Honduras to Bangladesh, are in the throes of a climate crisis that is now a daily reality for millions. The climate crisis is fuelling a food crisis,” says WFP Executive Director David Beasley.
Tens of thousands of lives are at risk in southern Madagascar, one of the potentially many places in the world currently where famine-like conditions have been driven by climate change.
Consecutive droughts have pushed nearly 1.1 million people into severe hunger. Nearly 14,000 of them are in famine-like conditions and this number is expected to double by the end of the year.
Up to 63 percent of people in the south of the country are subsistence farmers who have seen their livelihoods collapse, and their only source of food dry up, due to drought.
The climate crisis is a threat multiplier
When coupled with conflict, the climate crisis exacerbates existing vulnerabilities, magnifying the damage, destruction and despair.
Extreme climate events in conflict-affected areas destroy the already meagre resources at the disposal of families and even hamper humanitarian efforts reaching communities.
In Afghanistan, severe drought tied to conflict and economic hardship has left a third of the population reeling with hunger.
“If this is the new normal, we can’t keep lurching from disaster to disaster. We need to go beyond just picking up the pieces after the crisis hits, and instead manage climate risks so they no longer have the power to destroy the food security of vulnerable communities,” added Beasley.
WFP is trying to help communities adapt to the changing climate that threatens their ability to grow food, secure incomes and withstand shocks with limited resources. It has supported 39 governments, endeavoring to help them progress their national climate ambitions.
In 2020, WFP implemented climate risk management plans in 28 countries, so that they can be better prepared for climate shocks and stresses.
“Conflict is plunging millions into hunger today, but the climate crisis has the potential to dwarf conflict as the main cause of hunger tomorrow. We urgently need to invest in climate adaptation and resilience programmes to avert this looming humanitarian disaster,” said Beasley.
‘People affected by the climate crisis do not have the luxury to wait’, says Gernot Laganda - Chief of Climate and Disaster-Risk Reduction at the World Food Programme
The world in which the World Food Programme (WFP) operates today is characterized by a rise in hunger happening faster than at any previous time in the 21st century. It is a world in which 811 million people are currently going hungry, 41 million of whom are on the brink of famine.
Launched IN August the sixth ‘State of the Science’ report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), confirms that the role of climate change as a risk-multiplier for hunger, poverty, conflict and displacement is not going to let up any time soon.
In 2007, the IPCC and former US Vice-President Al Gore were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change.
This came on the heels of the IPCC’s 4th Assessment report, which highlighted that the warming of the climate system was unequivocal; and that most global temperature rises since the 1950s were a consequence of human actions. In 2020, the WFP was named Nobel Peace Prize laureate for its efforts to combat hunger – after a decade that was the hottest on record.
Many of the things the scientific community knew about climate change 14 years ago still hold true. Yet, advances in climate modelling now allow more detailed insights and projections with a smaller bandwidth of uncertainty.
For example, the ‘State of the Science’ report confirms that human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are behind the heatwaves, storms and floods that require organizations such as WFP to launch humanitarian operations to save lives.
Scientists have also narrowed the estimated range for temperature changes in response to different greenhouse gas concentrations: a doubling of pre-industrial CO2 levels, which ice core samples put at around 270 parts per million (ppm), is likely to cause a warming effect of between 2.5°C to 4°C.
Right now, the world stands near 420 ppm of CO2 concentrations and a global average temperature that is 1.1°C warmer than pre-industrial averages. Every year, around 2 ppm of CO2 concentrations are added by human activity.
This means that humanity’s carbon budget is running out fast – and that even under the IPCC's most optimistic scenario, in which the world's emissions begin to drop sharply today and are reduced to net-zero by 2050, global temperatures will still peak above the 1.5°C threshold that is enshrined in the Paris Agreement. This alone will be enough to escalate humanitarian needs in the future.
People that are affected by the climate crisis today do not have the luxury to wait until the world has changed course on greenhouse gas emissions. They already find themselves caught in the vortex of more frequent and intense climate extremes, which have more than doubled over the past four decades and caused increasing losses and damage to the systems that bring food to people’s tables.
In 2020, climate extremes were the predominant driver of acute hunger in 15 countries, displacing 30 million people within borders – around three times more than violence or conflicts.
Displacement tends to fuel social and political tensions – and once these tensions erupt in violence or conflict, people become even more vulnerable and unable to manage risks.
Even when people are not displaced by floods, storms or drought, they experience changes in rainfall patterns and cropping seasons, but also pest infestations, diseases and heat stress in both crops and livestock.
Climate stresses make livelihoods more precarious so that even smaller disruptions can result in acute hunger and dependency on external assistance.
Humanitarian and development actors must direct more targeted support to countries that are experiencing increasingly severe and compounded impacts of climate change on food security.
In line with national ambitions and commitments on climate change adaptation, which are still widely under-resourced, humanitarian aid programmes in the world’s foremost climate risk hotspots not only need to be ready for faster responses to more and bigger climate disasters – they also need to integrate strategic solutions to enable a transition from reactive crisis-response to more forward-looking risk management.
In the humanitarian sector, the Code Red for the global climate that has been emphasized by the latest IPCC report has long been recognized as a reality in the field.
WFP is already supporting people on the frontlines of the global climate crisis who are facing famine, and new flashpoints are appearing on WFP’s HungerMap each day.
The next decade is going to be decisive – not only with regards to curbing global greenhouse gas emissions but also for the scaling up of systems that help humanitarians manage escalating risks.
Climate change threatens every corner of every country, every sector of every economy, and the future of each and every child. This reality has never been clearer.
http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sixth-assessment-report-working-group-i/ http://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/state-of-climate-2021-extreme-events-and-major-impacts http://hungermap.wfp.org/ http://www.fightfoodcrises.net/september-update-2021-grfc/en/ http://www.wfp.org/stories/wfp-glance http://www.ipcinfo.org/ipcinfo-website/resources/alerts-archive/en/
The Climate Crisis - We can’t leave anyone behind (UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs)
Countries continue to emit greenhouse gasses at their highest-ever concentration levels, extreme weather is decimating more and more parts of the world.
Time is running out for millions of people who are already losing their lives, their homes and their livelihoods to climate change. These people have contributed least to the global climate emergency, yet they are being hit the hardest.
Climate-related damage is happening at a scale that the humanitarian community and people on the front lines cannot manage.
We need to pressure world leaders to take meaningful climate action for those who need it most. They must commit to putting vulnerable people front and centre at the UN climate summit (COP26) in November.
Through the Paris Agreement, rich countries had pledged to provide US$100 billion a year to help poorer countries tackle climate change through mitigation and adaptation actions. But the rich countries are falling behind in their commitments.
Solidarity in the face of the climate crisis begins with developed countries fulfilling their promise to help the most vulnerable communities adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.
Here are stories of people directly affected by climate change, from Africa to Asia and Central America. UN agencies and our NGO humanitarian partners are there working to try to support communities at the front lines often with too little funding.
“The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race that we can win,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. And in the race against the climate crisis, we can’t leave anyone behind.
Bintu Abiso, Nigeria
Bintu Abiso, a mother of eight, was displaced from Mafa in 2016 due to the ongoing violence in north-east Nigeria. She trekked to Gongulong for safety and has lived there ever since.
“The climate is changing. The dry season is longer and very hot. It affects everything: our environment, our livelihoods and our animals.
"Before, rain started early and lasted long. Now rainfall is short, it does not start early but it ends early. Before, we had a high crop yield and enough grass for animals to feed. Now the crop yield is less and there is sparse vegetation. It even affects the trees.
“There is not enough food, not enough water, not enough animal feed and not enough firewood. It is hard to get water for my animals, the feeding is more expensive and the heat has caused some goats to have miscarriages.”
Abdus Samad Sarker, Bangladesh
When heavy monsoon rains flooded the northern districts of Bangladesh in the spring of 2020, Abdus Samad Sarkar and his wife, Monowara, were living in a small hut near the Brahmaputra, one of the world’s largest rivers. Their house was submerged in the flood waters.
During the monsoon season, rivers can burst their banks and inundate large swathes of low-lying country. Inside Abdus’s house the water level rose to waist height, destroying many of the family’s belongings.
Marta Domingo, Mozambique
Marta Domingo, 26, gave birth in the Muada accommodation centre, outside Beira, two weeks before this photo was taken.
“I arrived in the camp on cyclone day. The whole house had collapsed. I fell when I was running, and I was seeing all the houses collapsing.”
Marta went into labour two weeks after arriving at the camp. She gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, but the boy died the next day. Marta thinks he was injured when she fell while running to safety. She now devotes all her energy to keeping her remaining baby, Malina Seba, alive and healthy.
“My baby boy, he has no name; I still haven’t given him a name. I am recovering but sometimes I feel pain, I am sad. Malina is doing ok. Sometimes she doesn’t breastfeed. I don’t think she knows she lost her brother.
“If I get a future, if I go home, I will go back to farming to survive. I want my baby girl to have food and clothing. The cyclone has taken everything. But I want her to go to school.”
Lourenco Custodio, Mozambique
In March 2019, the flood waters created by Cyclone Idai destroyed the house where 14-year-old Lourenço Custodio was living with his grandparents and aunt. After fleeing, he was evacuated to the Samora Machel school in Beira.
During an assessment, a social worker realized that Lourenço was alone, with no relatives. He was transferred to the Centro Infantario, where he lived for a month. With the support of UNICEF, Save the Children, Centro Infantario and the Provincial Directorate for Social Welfare of Beira, he eventually returned home safe and was reunited with his family in Buzi.
On 15 March 2019, Cyclone Idai ripped through central Mozambique. Floods swept through communities, destroying everything in their path. Thousands of families, many with young children, sought safety on the tops of trees and high buildings waiting to be rescued.
Djeneba Diallo, Burkina Faso
Djeneba Diallo is from the fulani community. She is a herder in Balgouma village, near Kaya, in Burkina Faso.
"Our village welcomed a lot of people displaced over the last year. We all get along. There are no conflicts. But their arrival creates a lot of problems for our access to water. There is only one water point for all of us and for the livestock, which take priority. We can arrive at 6 in the morning and wait until midday.
"Water collection takes us so much time that we cannot go to the market again to sell and buy enough to feed ourselves."
Aizata Sawadogo fled her home in Arbinda to find security in Balgouma. She confirms: "Since I arrived here 10 months ago, there is no conflict. Even if I am from a different community.
"We all live in peace. The only problem is water. All our clothes are dirty, and it creates a lack of hygiene that makes us fear diseases like diarrhoea, especially for our children.”
The village’s population doubled in a year. The one water point is used by over 700 people.
Violence, insecurity and extreme weather have impacted millions of people in the Sahel. Some of the worst violence and displacement have occurred in areas that are the poorest and most affected by climate change, where armed groups have exploited tensions over resources and shrinking arable land.
Climate change has a direct and an indirect impact on affected populations: it increases competition on already limited resources, and it directly affects production and people’s capacity to provide for themselves.
Across the Sahel, 5.5 million people are uprooted – more people than ever before. Large-scale displacement is straining weak services and scarce natural resources, and food insecurity is reaching record peaks, with over 14 million people struggling with crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity – a number that is expected to grow during the lean season.
Adam Arouna, Niger
Adam, a retired imam, has lived next to the river all his life. But the dramatic floods of August 2020 destroyed his house, forcing him and his family to flee. They sheltered in a school for a few weeks and then relocated to the Gamou displacement site.
“When the floods came last year, we were only able to save the minimum: our documents and the mattresses. Water went up to our chest.
"I have lived next to the river all my life and I have never seen anything like this. "I believe this is a message from God. He is the one to tell us what to do and not do. He always sends catastrophes when he is unhappy with man’s behaviour. God is patient, but when humans do not listen to him he sends catastrophes to remind them of his presence.
"Years ago, the river was deep but now it is full of sand and stones. As a result, it can no longer contain water.
“I feel like a foreigner in this camp. When we used to be at home, everyone knew each other; we often met with our neighbours to talk. There is no such opportunity here.
"I cannot see my river anymore. It pains me so much. After all these years living by the water. The river is life. I used to look at it and it would clear my mind. When I felt tired, I would dive into the river and instantly feel better. “I just hope we will be safe in the future. We must keep our faith.”
Niger experienced its worst-ever flooding in August 2020. Entire neighbourhoods in Niamey were washed away. Heavy rainfall, coupled with rising water levels in the major river basins, has led to severe flooding across Niger. This has caused displacement, increased food insecurity and exacerbated the country’s humanitarian situation.
Chirica Guimba, Philippines
Chirica Guimba, 26, had saved up to build a small house by the beach in Barangay Baybay in Molinao, Albay, the Philippines. But on 1 November 2020, Typhoon Goni made landfall in the province. It destroyed her dream house and most of the coastal village.
The Philippines is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, with an average of 25 typhoons per year. Typhoon Goni, the strongest of 2020, blew away roofs, toppled structures and caused severe flooding and landslides. In Virac, the capital of Catanduanes, between 80 and 90 per cent of houses were damaged.
Nguyen Van Hat and Ho Thi Ha, Vietnam
Nguyen Van Hat, 48, and Ho Thi Ha, 37, live in Loc Thuy commune, Le Thuy district, Quang Binh, an area of Viet Nam that was severely affected by Typhoon Molave. They are now worried for their children’s future, as flooding stole the family’s only source of income and biggest assets: the two buffaloes they received from a charity organization.
When the floods arrived, the family was evacuated by local authorities. But because he was worried for the two buffaloes, Nguyen Van Hat returned in a small wooden boat, which he used for fishing. The boat capsized in high waves and strong winds, but luckily Nguyen Van Hat was close to his home; he managed to swim there and take shelter in the attic.
He survived three days with no food or potable water before being rescued by the authorities. But the family’s furniture was damaged or swept away by the floods and they now have nothing.
In the second part of 2020, Viet Nam experienced a succession of tropical storms and typhoons, which caused record rainfall and widespread flooding in much of the country’s central areas.
Mateboko Hlashla, Lesotho
Situated high in the hills of east Lesotho, Makoabating village is particularly exposed to the elements. The wind whips between the stone houses with thatched roofs that are typically found hunkering into the hillsides in this part of the country.
“Our village is known for having a high production of vegetables,” said Mateboko Hlashla, 60. “But the drought that we have experienced has affected so many families. Livestock have died – there is not enough grass for them to graze.
“It’s been difficult to feed my family. We do not have enough water. The reliable water sources have dried up. In most cases when we don’t have enough water the poor sanitation comes in. We will be unlucky enough to have diarrhoea, because in that case we drink water from the same stream as the livestock – dogs and everything.
“But the most painful thing is that we normally sell our livestock in order to get enough cash so that we can buy what the kids need for school. But now that we have lost a lot of livestock it’s not definite the children will be going to school.”
Secundino Orellana, Honduras
Secundino Orellana, 68, had lived in the same place for 30 years. But he became homeless overnight when Hurricanes Eta and Iote destroyed large parts of Honduras.
“I thank God for my life. It’s very painful to lose everything one owns, but the most important thing is to save one’s life. You have to endure. All of us lost everything. The water washed the houses away. I have been living here for 30 years. I have never seen anything like this before.
“We stayed because we wanted to save the little that we had, but we could not save the house. "We are fighting to survive. We can’t give up, because we have to look forward.
Thank God we were able to receive some help. We have some friends from other places who have remembered us, and also the Red Cross, who has come all the way here to help us.”
Hurricane Eta made landfall in Nicaragua on 3 November 2020 as an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane. Its heavy rains caused flooding and landslides, and damaged infrastructure, homes and crops in all Central American countries, but with extensive damage to Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Ten days later, Hurricane Iota made landfall in Nicaragua and the Gracias a Dios region as a dangerous Category 5 hurricane. Flooding and mudslides in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua were exacerbated by Hurricane Eta’s recent damage to those countries.
Mohamed Qadis, Afghanistan
“When the harvest failed, I sold my animals,” said Mohamed Qadis, a farmer from Afghanistan’s Muqur District in Badghis, who now lives in an informal displacement site in Muslemabad.
“The prices were way too low. I sold them for a fifth of their real price. But I could not wait to sell, I had no choice. Twenty of my sheep had already starved because I had no fodder for them and no water.”
Mohamed stayed on his plot of land until the money ran out. Then he decided to leave for Hirat City.
In 2018, a drought decimated the livelihoods of tens of thousands of households in the rural north-west of Afghanistan, which is one of world’s 10 most vulnerable countries to climate change. During the past 30 years, nearly all of its 34 provinces have been hit by at least one disaster. At the same time, a long-standing conflict has killed and injured thousands of people and displaced millions.
According to the UN’s Refugee agency (UNHCR), weather-related events over the past decade triggered an average of 21.5 million new displacements each year – more than twice as many as the displacements caused by conflict and violence.
Bushra and her family fled Kafrouma, south of Idlib, in 2019. An escalation of fighting displaced 1 million people, most of whom were women and children. The camp, which has a school, receives food assistance, and NGOs supply water by truck from a nearby well.Bushra and her friends escape the soaring summer temperatures by sitting in the back of a truck that has been converted into a pool. Drought is a growing concern in Syria; rainfall this year has been poor, and the water levels of the Euphrates River are at a historic low.
Millions of people are without electricity and clean water, and families are resorting to using unsafe water sources, further undermining the country’s fragile public health. With limited availability of COVID-19 vaccines, access to sanitation and hygiene is a critical first line of defence against virus transmission. The drought could also harm farming in a country where millions of people already don't have enough to eat.
The UN's humanitarian partners deliver millions of litres of emergency water to families each day, as well as food, medicine, vaccination, shelter, and other life-saving aid. They also provide 1.4 million people with agriculture and livelihood activities. But much more needs to be done to reduce the impact of the global climate crisis that is increasing suffering in a country already beset by crises.
Nneheiyg Smith, Lesotho
As she draws water from a roadside spring in Ha Kutoane, Thaba-Tseka, Lesotho, Nneheiyg Smith, 70, explains what she is going through:
“This is not a normal thing to do. We have a water system in our village but it dried out, so we have to come to this one. This is actually an old and neglected spring. But because the taps are dry, I had to come here.”
Lesotho has been severely affected by drought in recent years, creating emergency levels of food insecurity.
“I have never seen this level of drought before. I was told there was something like this in 1933. 2015 was bad, but this is worse.
When I was growing up, when I was still young, we had seasonal rains that were named. There was a lot of rain. We were able to plant everything we wanted at any time. We used to have livestock, as the grazing was good. But now everything has changed. The time we used to have rain – the rain doesn’t come. Instead we are expecting dust or wind, which can come at any time. I’m aware that things have changed.”
The scarcity of water makes life very difficult for people in Nneheiyg’s village. “People line up here every morning. At 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning they line up here. Some of them are going up in the mountain – there’s another source one hour away and one hour back.”
We need to pressure world leaders to take meaningful climate action for those who need it most. They must commit to putting vulnerable people front and centre at the UN climate summit (COP26) in November.
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