How Climate Change is threatening millions of people in the countries in which Trócaire works
28 Feb 20224 Min Read
Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity.
Myanmar flood response. Ma Soe from Kyone Sein village receives a water bucket from Trócaire’s partner ALARM Photo : Lawi Nyan
Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity. In communities where Trócaire works, millions are in crisis impacted by ongoing droughts and heavy rains.
Recently the world’s top climate scientists warned in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that avoiding escalating climate change is no longer possible, and countries will have to spend big to protect their people, nature and economies.
The report details the damage already happening and looks at the impacts for cities, coastal communities, infrastructure, food production, health, livelihoods and poverty.
Africa: the continent most vulnerable to climate change
In 2011, Ethiopia experienced its worst drought for 50 years. Millions of livestock perished across the country, many of which were unable to find food or water in the bleached landscape of Borana zone, Ethiopia’s water-stressed southernmost region: Countries in Africa are responsible for only 4% of global carbon emissions – yet they are affected most by climate change.
Droughts in the Horn of Africa are becoming more frequent and severe, and are one of the main drivers of hunger across the region, forcing families from their homes and land.
According to the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) an estimated 13 million people in the Horn of Africa are facing severe hunger. Drought conditions have affected pastoral and farmer populations across southern and southeastern Ethiopia, southeastern and northern Kenya and south-central Somalia, with forecasts of below-average rainfall threatening to worsen already dire conditions in the coming months.
Ethiopia has endured ten major droughts since 1980 with the average annual temperature
increasing by 0.37 degrees C every decade. Eighty-five per cent of Ethiopians live in rural areas, and most rely on subsistence farming to survive. But with worsening drought, people are struggling to farm, going prolonged periods without food, water and healthcare.
The lack of rains is driving mass displacement as families are forced to move in search of water and pasture, leading to intercommunal conflicts.
In Somalia, approximately 593,000 were displaced last year alone and climate projections suggest worse is yet to come. Internal migration is primarily linked to extreme weather-related climate change events, conflict, and violence.
Sadly, in 2022, 7.7 million Somalians are expected to require humanitarian assistance.
In Rwanda, the high levels of poverty and low-degree of development are limiting the ability of poor households and communities to manage climate risk, increasing their vulnerability to climate related shocks. Women and girls, the majority of whom work on smallholder farms, are most affected.
Climate change has made farming harder for millions in Rwanda and heavy rains destroyed 16,610.45 hectares of crops in 2020 and 2019 alone. Rising food prices due to reduced agricultural yields is expected to be the largest driver of increased poverty in Rwanda and across the countries where we work.
In Malawi, communities are struggling to deal with the prolonged dry seasons and more intense rainfalls that have become the new normal. Last year, 1.4 million people were estimated to be experiencing crisis levels of acute food insecurity in the country.
In 2019, Cyclone Idai left a devastating path of destruction in a country already suffering. Close to two million people were affected and hundreds were killed. Damages cost over $370.5 million with severe destruction to roads, bridges, houses, power lines, irrigation systems and crops.
Over the last few months, storms, torrential rain and flooding have killed at least 13 people and destroyed thousands of homes and schools along the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Lake Tanganyika coast. For centuries, the lake supported generations of Congolese – now it has become a place of catastrophe for local people who are dependent on the lake for food, transport and livelihood.
Floods bring water-borne diseases such as cholera, and as a result, many children are forced to skip school, impacting development.
The United Nations blames South Sudan’s worst floods in 60 years – endangering the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people – on climate change. Like other African nations, South Sudan is highly vulnerable to increased flooding, droughts and, most recently, a locust infestation.
According to the World Food Programme around 5 million people in Zimbabwe face food shortages in the coming months, driven by droughts and heavy rains have caused by climate change.
Fishing communities in Sierra Leone are experiencing considerable repercussions from climate change with reduced fishing productivity, ecosystem degradation and low farming outputs. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) references projections of a 21% decline in the annual landed value for fish by 2050 resulting in an estimated annual loss of US$ 311 million to the region’s economy. The lack of climate data available is limiting the countries’ ability to mitigate the risks.
Climate Change in Central America
Guatemala is consistently listed among the world’s 10 most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change and this, combined with mass deforestation, is rapidly eroding the environment where they live. Last year, tropical storms Eta and Iota destroyed most of the Guatemalan territory with heavy rains causing floods and dozens of catastrophic landslides.
Hurricanes Eta and Iota also ripped through Honduras, causing $2.2 billion in damages and impacted more than four million people. According to official figures, more than 368,901 people were displaced and over 100 people died because of the floods.
Erratic weather, combined with deforestation, is forcing many displaced Hondurans and Guatemalans to seek asylum as in other countries. However, climate change is not yet recognised as a legitimate reason for asylum, and most are refused help.
The impacts of climate change in Asia
Myanmar has been one of the three countries most affected by weather-related damage in the last two decades, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2019.
Storms, floods, and waterlogging are identified as key drivers of poverty, and poverty is highest in rural areas. Compared to many other countries in the region, Myanmar is currently much less prepared to respond to the challenges of global heating.
The predicted rise in temperature in Myanmar is expected to have major negative impacts on agricultural production and food security. Temperature increases of ~2-4°C will threaten agricultural productivity, stressing crops and reducing yields.
With your generous support, climate justice programmes supported 301,000 people across 13 countries last year, but much more needs to be done to achieve climate justice in the countries where we work.
Read our response to the latest IPCC report and why the world must act now to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe due to climate change here.