UN Chief: ‘Unconscionable’ That Somalis Suffer From Climate Crisis They Did Little to Cause
On the last of a two-day visit to Somalia, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called out climate injustice.
Somalia is in the midst of a drought that claimed 43,000 lives in 2022, but only 15 percent of Somalia’s 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan has been funded so far this year.
“It is unconscionable that Somalis, who have done almost nothing to create the climate crisis, are suffering its terrible impact – just as they are beginning to emerge from years of conflict and insecurity,” Guterres said Wednesday, as UN News reported.
Guterres’ remarks came during a press conference in the Somalia capital of Mogadishu as he was urging the international community to step up their support of Somalia. The Humanitarian Response Plan organized by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) calls for $2.6 billion this year, but has only received $347 million so far.
“When famine looms, this is totally unacceptable,” Guterres said. “The international community must step up and dramatically increase the volume of funds to support Somalia in this moment of difficulty.”
The drought in Somalia is the worst the country has experienced in 40 years, according to The East African. It is also the country’s longest drought on record, Al Jazeera reported in February. The rainy season has failed for five years in a row in parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, according to The East African. This has killed crops and livestock and forced at least 1.7 million people to leave their homes and look for food and water elsewhere. In Somalia alone, 11 million livestock have died, according to Al Jazeera. Further, 1.4 million people have been displaced, 80 percent of them women and children, UN News said.
So far, a joint Somali-government and UN report released in March estimated that the drought had caused 43,000 early deaths in 2022, half of them children younger than five, according to The East African. In January, the UN resident coordinator for Somalia said drought-related deaths would “almost certainly” overtake the more than 260,000 fatalities from a famine declared in 2011.
This year, around 8.3 million people in Somalia — about half its total population — will be impacted by the drought, according to UN News. At the same time, the rains that did come in March caused flooding that killed 21 people and forced more than 100,000 from their homes, The East African reported.
“Climate change is causing chaos,” Guterres said, as UN News reported. “Somalia has experienced five consecutive poor rainy seasons, and this is unprecedented… Poor and vulnerable communities are pushed by the drought to the brink of starvation, and the situation can get worse.”
Guterres, whose trip was part of his tradition of paying solidarity visits to Muslim countries during Ramadan, also spent time with internally displaced families in Somalia’s South West State Tuesday. His visit comes the same year as a new study from the University of Oxford that looked at displacement, conflict and weather changes in Somalia from 2016 to 2018. The research, published in Global Environmental Change, found that even a one degree Celsius increase in local monthly temperature could multiply anticipated displacement by a factor of 10 over time, while a decrease in monthly rainfall from 100 to 50 millimeters could double it.
“The lives of pastoralists and farmers in Somalia are balanced on a knife edge. Even a 1°C rise on normal temperatures – whether sustained or frequently re-occurring over a few months – is enough to cause pastures to dry up and crop yield to change,” study lead author and research associate with Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute and Climate Econometrics team Dr. Lisa Thalheimer said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch. “Our research shows these seemingly small temperature changes are having an outsized impact and are forcing communities to leave their homes.”
Despite its disproportionate impact on their lives, Somalis have done next to nothing to contribute to the climate crisis. Their per capita carbon dioxide emissions actually declined from 1990 to 2019, from 0.1 metric tons to near zero, according to data from The World Bank.
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