Why I am at COP 27: The Case of an Immediate Global Response to Support People to Adapt to Effects of Climate Change
By Dr Asha Mohammed, Secretary-General, Kenya Red Cross Society
The horn of Africa is facing its worst droughts in four decades. As a result, over 20 million people in four countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia face an acute food shortage. Images of malnourished children, women trekking long distances in search of water, the carcasses of livestock strewn all over the landscape and the growing risk of dropping out of school have become commonplace on our television screens and print media front pages. I have had the opportunity to visit some of the worst affected areas during our response to the drought and the stories from the families we interact with are heart-wrenching.
It is not just the drought that has put communities on the edge though. Not long ago, the region went through devastating floods in which thousands were uprooted from their homes. Some communities living around major water bodies like Lakes Victoria, Baringo and Nakuru have been permanently displaced as result. Two years ago the region also faced a desert locust invasion not witnessed in over 70 years. With respect to floods and drought, it has been a seesaw between the two extremes that have tested communities’ resilience and stretched their coping mechanisms to the limit. In addition, floods and droughts cascading impacts are multiplying the vulnerabilities to climate shocks.
It is for this reason that the voices of these communities need to be heard and action taken to give them a fighting chance during this ‘African’ Conference of Parties on Climate change taking place in Sharm El Sheikh. For these communities, addressing the effects of climate change is now an existential concern that needs to be at the heart of COP27 negotiations.
This is why I am at COP27 and I believe many others are representing communities facing the most severe consequences of climate change: to ensure the voices of these communities are well articulated, listened to and heard. We believe and want to ensure that these communities are at the heart of the conversations in Sharm El Sheikh. Data shows that 93% of those worst affected by climate-related disasters live in lower-income countries and are, in fact, among the lowest contributors to CO2 emissions, yet they are facing the greatest threats.
People in the hardest-hit countries like the ones under the current drought have shown incredible resilience, but the situation is becoming more dire every day. There is now unprecedented pressure on humanitarian organisations to provide relief. In sub-Saharan Africa, 146 million people are struggling to access the food they need, while in West Africa, and especially in Nigeria, large swathes of the country are reeling under heavy floods. There must be an immediate global response to support people to adapt to a world where extreme weather events are becoming more common, more damaging and more deadly. This includes delivering on the finance mechanism for adaptation and loss and damage. Increasing the adaptation fund is critical while addressing the bottlenecks that prevent access to climate financing for the people who need it most. A positive outcome on loss and damage would ensure the availability of resources to communities already outside the adaptation window and are already suffering loss and damage from climate events.