Scientific data indicates that extreme weather events such as flooding, storms and heat waves are becoming more intense. Larger areas are being affected by more frequent and longer-lasting droughts and increasingly severe desertification.
The impacts of these disasters, whether they occur rapidly or take months or years to manifest, can be devastating to the people they affect.
In particular, those disasters which touch the lives of the world’s poorest people, who often have made the least contribution to climate change through their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, serve as an urgent reminder of the need for action to protect and assist those affected, and of our collective responsibility to reduce GHG emissions.
1. Flooding across Pakistan
Populations in the north-west and southern regions of Pakistan have been affected by heavy rains, which have flooded huge areas.
At least 78 people died in three days, with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Pakistani-administered Azad Kashmir worst affected, accounting for more than 60 deaths.
In Karachi in the south, around 75,000 people have been displaced following flash floods.
Around 5 million people from over 4000 villages have been affected, according to some aid agencies. There are fears that others may be trapped in areas where flooding has cut off access, as occurred last year, making the provision of aid and the evacuation of the people difficult. The impacts of the floods have been compounded by the poor drainage and weak infrastructure across the country.
Many of the areas currently affected are still recovering from last year’s floods. “We had just begun to restore our houses when we had to leave again because of the floods,” said a 38-year-old construction worker. He took his wife, parents and three children in a boat loaded with their few household goods and made his way to the same nearby hills they had previously escaped to just one year ago.
Pakistan’s meteorological department says average rainfall across the Sindh province is three times its normal level. The three worst affected districts are seeing that eight times the usual number of refugees are requiring food aid.
The UN’s World Food Programme agency said it is currently working to provide emergency supplies to half a million people and would scale up operations with the aim of reaching over two million in October.
2. Floods and food insecurity in the Sahel
In Chad, tens of thousands of people and thousands of hectares of crops have been affected by the heavy rains of August and September. More than 70,000 houses have been destroyed.
Flooding resulted when the Bahr Azoum wadi, a river, breached its banks. This affected 37 villages and flooded several sites for internally displaced people and refugees around the town of Koukou, eastern Chad.
There are worries that the early rains in southern Algeria and northern parts of Niger, Mali and Chad created conditions for unusually large swarms of locusts, which could threaten crops later this year.
The situation is worsened by several previous seasons of drought that have devastated farmers and herders in the Sahel. Chad is preparing to spend two million dollars on emergency assistance and has asked for help from donors and humanitarian agencies amid fears of food insecurity.
Experts say that averting a full-scale humanitarian crisis in the Sahel this year may require coordinated efforts throughout the region and across the international community.
3. Displacement in Nigeria creates two new refugee camps
Floods across Nigeria have killed 137 people and displaced more than 30,000 since the beginning of July.
Fifteen local government areas have been affected, with the worst effects being felt in the eastern and central parts of the country. The situation is terrible in overcrowded slums where drainage is poor or nonexistent, sometimes resulting in lethal consequences for the population.
Heavy rainfall across the West African region raised the level of the Niger River, the third longest river in Africa. The resultant flooding has affected other countries such as Niger, Mali and Beni.
The National Emergency Management Agency of Nigeria (NEMA) said that water levels in two large reservoirs along the Niger River were at their highest levels in 29 years and ordered evacuation from low-lying areas in five states.
NEMA has established two new refugee camps in Kano and Sokoto as part of their plan to provide comfort for refugees and avoid the outbreak of disease.
4. Flooding in Kenya: thousands displaced
In the Rift Valley Province of Kenya, thousands of people have been displaced. Many houses and schools have been submerged under the water and crops have been destroyed.
Latrines have overflown, polluting sources of water and giving the population no choice but to use contaminated water, risking the spread of disease.
“I have no better water to drink. I have to use what is readily available, even if I am aware of the risk of contracting diseases,” Lydiah Kuyale, a resident of Loropil Village in Marigat, told IRIN. She has concerns for her son's education too: “If the classes remain submerged, how will my son get to school?”
Following the floods, it is not only the access to clean water and education that has been affected; many people have also lost their livelihoods.
Chicken farmer John Ledapana is also assessing his losses after most of his poultry were swept away by the floodwaters, leaving him with only six 3-week-old chicks.
Access to health care is also difficult; medical supplies and equipment have been destroyed by floodwaters and affected populations are threatened by waterborne diseases.
5. I-Kiribati man denied climate refugee status
A 36-year-old man from the drowning Pacific Island country of Kiribati, who sought refuge in New Zealand, was denied climate refugee status, the Huffington Post reports.
New Zealand immigration authorities refused his emotional application, citing that the Geneva Refugee Convention does not make reference to environmental harm.
Kiribati is expected to be the first country to experience a complete submergence of territory due to climate change. In 2008, the Kiribati government requested Australia and New Zealand accept Kiribati citizens and in March this year they were negotiating the resettlement of their population to Fiji’s second largest island, Vanua Levu.
Earlier this week, President Anote Tong of Kiribati addressed the UN General Assembly, urging nations to “step up our collective efforts to mitigate global greenhouse gas emissions”.
This recent case demonstrates the difficulties that climate refugees face in securing protection and assistance, as the Refugee Convention simply does not provide legal protection to the victims of climate change.
6. Report warns: acidifying oceans threaten food security
Fish and shellfish are a primary source of protein for more than one billion of the poorest people on Earth.
However, human-made carbon dioxide emissions are disrupting ocean conditions, causing changes at the base of the marine food web – threatening the future of these essential seafood resources and the livelihoods of those heavily dependent upon them.
This is according to a new report published by Oceana, which ranks nations based on the seafood security hardships they may face due to changing ocean conditions from climate change and ocean acidification.
The report warns that coastal and small island developing nations in particular are vulnerability hotspots, with the Persian Gulf, Libya and Pakistan among those regions predicted to experience the heaviest losses in seafood resources.
Read Oceana's report in full here.
7. Wildfires in Ecuador
Between June and September, over 2,900 wildfires have affected Ecuador, destroying over 15,500 hectares of land.
On 13 September an orange alert was declared in 8 provinces as forest and brush fires continued to rage.
In response, CHF 102,000 has been allocated from the IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the efforts of the Ecuadorian Red Cross (ERC) in providing immediate assistance to at least 3,000 individuals.
Environmental Justice Foundation Charitable Trust (EJF) is a registered charity in England and Wales (no. 1088128)
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