By Meabh Smith, reporting from the Philippines. All photos by Peter O'Doherty.
It’s 12 months since Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest ever storm to make landfall, struck the Philippines. Thousands died and the damage was catastrophic.
People in Ireland donated over €3 million towards our emergency appeal to support survivors.
Trócaire has been supporting brave Filipino people to rebuild their lives, as part of the global Caritas network, funding new homes, debris clearance, water, sanitation and psychosocial care.
Thank you so much to all who supported our appeal. Here are some of the people you have helped...
Apolonio Orbia (above) from San Antonio on Cebu Island was found sitting on the side of a hill after his home and all he had was blown away. Sr. Anne Healy, an Irish nun from the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary missionary order, received funding from Trócaire to build new homes for Apolonio and his community.
“This house is better than the one we had before the typhoon. Now, we are alert all the time and keep safe. We have a cell phone and track the news and radio to hear if there is a storm coming.”
Single mother, Mildred Taboso, holds a picture of her two children who were killed in the typhoon. She said: “The work of Trócaire and CRS [Trócaire partner] has really helped, to have this house and not have to build it myself. When the typhoon came we stayed here because we didn’t know that there would be a flood. The water was over 15 feet. We left after the second wave came. My two children were taken by the water within an hour. I miss them sleeping in my arms.”
"Climate change threatens to undo all the gains that have been made against poverty", according to Trócaire's new in-depth report ‘Feeling the Heat: How climate change is driving extreme weather in the developing world'.
The report published today (Wednesday, 5 November) analyses of the impact of climate change on the developing world and calls for the Irish government to introduce binding targets to reduce Ireland’s carbon footprint.
It was officially launched today by Alan Kelly, Minister for the Environment and Local Government.
Speaking at the launch, Trócaire Executive Director Éamonn Meehan said:
“People in Ireland emit an average of 8.8 metric tonnes of carbon each year compared to just 0.1 metric tonne for Ethiopians. Each Irish person is responsible for as much carbon emissions as 88 Ethiopians, meaning that it would take 404 million Ethiopians – over four times the population of the country – to match Ireland’s carbon footprint.
“Ireland is significantly off-track for meeting our 2020 emission reduction targets. Given that we are the eighth highest carbon emitter per capita in Europe, and the 35th highest globally, we need to step-up to the plate. We need a binding roadmap to guide Ireland towards a fossil-free economy and we need investment in sustainable lifestyles that give people the options they need to reduce their carbon footprint.”
‘Feeling the Heat’ analyses the impact of climate change in five developing countries: the Philippines, Ethiopia, Malawi, Honduras and Kenya. The report is released on the week that marks the first anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan, which resulted in over 6,000 deaths in the Philippines last November.
Amongst the report’s findings for the Philippines are:
- At least 75 million people in the Philippines are at direct risk from the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels, storms and damage to agriculture.
- Temperatures in the Philippines have risen by 0.64 degree Celsius since 1951.
- There has been a significant increase in weather extremes, with regular drought during dry spells and floods during wet seasons.
- Without urgent remedial action temperatures in the Philippines will rise by 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, with even the ‘best case scenario’ predicting a 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature by the end of 2100.
- A 4 degree Celsius rise in temperature will significantly increase both the intensity and frequency of storms in the Philippines, putting millions of people at risk.
- Impacts on agriculture will cost the Philippines 2.2 per cent of GDP annually by 2100.
- The report concludes that climate change in the Philippines is set to result in “more malnutrition, higher poverty levels and possibly heightened social unrest and conflict in certain areas in the country due to loss of land.”
Amongst the report’s other findings are:
- 90% of the population of Malawi are at risk of hunger due to drought. Rainfall in Malawi could fall by as much as 25 per cent by the end of the century.
- Floods and storms have increased in frequency in Honduras, with 65 extreme weather events recorded in the last 20 years at a cost of $4.7bn.
- Yields from food crops in Honduras will drop by up to 10 per cent by 2020 due to increased drought.
- Rainfall in Kenya has reduced significantly over the last 30 years and temperatures are set to rise by up to 4.5 degrees Celsius by 2100.
- Net economic costs of climate change could be equivalent to a loss of almost 3 per cent of GDP each year by 2030 in Kenya.
- Agricultural output in Ethiopia could fall by as much as 10 per cent as a result of climate change.
- The growing season in Ethiopia has already reduced by 15 per cent as a result of drought.
Commenting on the report’s findings, Éamonn Meehan said: “This report brings home the reality of the impacts of climate change on people’s lives. Climate change is not just a scientific concept or a threat for the future, it is very real and it is affecting people today.
“The most recent IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report has warned that climate change will increase poverty and hunger over the coming decades. What our research shows is that this is already happening to a frightening degree. The poorest and most vulnerable people in the world are on the front lines and are seeing their ability to grow food and earn an income diminish by the day.
“Climate change threatens to undo all the gains that have been made against poverty over recent decades. It is the single biggest threat to humanity but yet the political system has refused to move quickly enough to address it.”
Read the full report: ‘Feeling the Heat: How climate change is driving extreme weather in the developing world'
By Éamonn Meehan
From localised beginnings, the Ebola outbreak has rapidly grown into first a national and now a regional crisis. Health services outside of West Africa, including our own in Ireland, are on high alert to ensure that this does not become a full-blown international outbreak.
Having just returned from Sierra Leone, where I saw first-hand the potential for the virus to spread at a frightening rate, one thing is very clear: the battle against Ebola will be won or lost in West Africa.
There are currently 10,000 cases throughout the region but at the rate it is spreading, it is feared that by December there could be 3,000 new cases a week in Sierra Leone alone. If that were to happen, the country simply could not cope. We have a strict time-frame of five weeks in which to bring this outbreak under control.
Photo caption: Fatu Sesay washes her hands at a handwashing station. In Sierra Leone, Trócaire is working with Caritas to prevent the spread of Ebola. Photo credit: Tommy Trenchard for Caritas
Sierra Leone is already a desperately poor country. The health services here were extremely weak even before this outbreak. To give an illustration of just how poor Sierra Leone is, one in five children do not reach their fifth birthday.
The weak structures that exist in Sierra Leone are desperately struggling to contain the most serious threat to the country since the brutal civil war came to an end in 2002.
There is an urgent need for more health centres, more beds and more medically trained personnel. Resources simply aren't coming on stream fast enough and the world needs to take note.
Attempts to halt the spread of the virus were hampered in the early weeks by a lack of information about how to reduce the risk of contamination. A mistrust of Government made matters worse as people did not believe what they were being told.
Trócaire is working with local leaders, both religious and civic, to get vital messages into communities. These initiatives are helping to tackle the spread of the virus.
The potential spread of the virus in the capital city, Freetown, is particularly worrying. There are over one million people living in Freetown and there are already 1,000 cases of Ebola in the city. Given how close people live together, there is a real fear that it could spread quickly.
Aside from the health risks posed by Ebola, this crisis has had many devastating side-effects. People are now too scared to go to health clinics and are dying of other diseases, such as malaria. Tens of thousands of women will give birth over the coming months without any medical assistance.
The crisis has also increased poverty. There have been redundancies due to businesses closing, while restrictions on movement have meant that farmers can't bring their crops to market. The lowest paid and most vulnerable are suffering most.
In addition, schools are closed and there is a likelihood that many children will not return to the classroom.
Even if the Ebola outbreak was to be contained today, these long-term issues will pose enormous challenges for Sierra Leone over the coming months and years. Neighbouring countries, including Guinea and Liberia, face similar problems.
Trócaire will work with communities for long-term responses to these problems. Right now, however, the focus has to be on stopping the virus from taking any more lives.
There is a global panic about the possibility of Ebola crossing seas and continents with the same ease at which it crossed national borders. We must avoid knee-jerk reactions, however. The decision of Australia to suspend entry visas for people from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa will needlessly increase fear and stigma.
As the director of a local organisation said to me in Freetown: “Isolate the virus, but don't isolate Sierra Leone”.