Humanitarian crises and climate change: preparing for the challenges ahead – Burundi
Burundi, Chad and Sudan are home to some of the world’s largest displaced populations and vulnerable communities.
The Burundian province of Gitega, which has one of the highest population densities in the country, hosts several thousand people in camps and refugee camps. About 96 percent of families use fuelwood as the main source of energy for cooking.
In 2015, Burundi had an estimated forest cover of 10.7% and the growing demand for fuelwood resulted in accelerated soil erosion and a threat to food security. And it could get worse. The country’s consumption needs require the production of around 180,000 ha of fuelwood, more than its current coverage of 174,000 ha.
Since 2015, the country has also been grappling with an escalating malaria epidemic with nearly 16.8 million cases and more than 7,800 deaths reported. Reduced vegetation cover has the potential to cause climate variability and with extreme weather events such as flooding, the country could face increased vulnerability to cholera outbreaks.
In Sudan, the lack of infrastructure, conflicts, displacement, climate change and environmental degradation have complicated people’s access to energy and water, thus affecting their food security. The warmer climate and erratic rainfall are gradually rendering Sudan unsuitable for agriculture, with potentially massive humanitarian implications.
Likewise, large populations of South Sudanese refugees have settled in the Sudanese states of Darfur, Nile and Kordofan, exerting immense pressure on already fragile lands. These states, with limited natural resources such as forests and pastures, are prone to drought with high rates of desertification.
Sudan’s western neighbor, Chad, faces similar challenges. For several years, the security situation in neighboring countries has precipitated major population movements towards Chad as well as internal displacements, exposing populations already vulnerable to recurrent humanitarian crises which have affected their resilience.
“The dire environmental conditions in these countries are changing the security, economic and social dynamics. Over the past 60 years, the lake [Chad]The size of has shrunk by 90% due to overuse of water, prolonged droughts and the impacts of climate change, ”says Saidou Hamani, disaster and conflict resilience coordinator at the UN regional office Environment for Africa.
The effects of climate change are expected to impact many parts of Africa, such as Gitega, Darfur or the Lake Chad Basin, not only due to changing rainfall and increased desertification, but also due to increased risk of flooding.
The special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on global warming of 1.5 ºC clearly describes what the humanitarian impacts of climate change could be. Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, has been identified as a hotspot for climate change. The region is expected to experience an increase in the frequency and intensity of droughts, with significant consequences for agricultural production, food security and tensions related to access to water. This will only further exacerbate the ongoing humanitarian situations.
Aware of these challenges, the World Food Program, UN Environment, Unicef, the United Nations Refugee Agency and the World Wind Energy Association have joined forces, with the financial support of the Initiative. International Climate Initiative, to support the governments of Burundi, Chad and Sudan to strengthen climate change adaptation in target humanitarian hotspots.
The initiative, a mechanism of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), has funded climate and biodiversity projects in developing and newly industrialized countries, as well than in countries in transition.
The project, launched in September 2018, will run until August 2020. “The joint project aims to strengthen the climate adaptation capacities of displaced populations and vulnerable communities in Burundi, Sudan and Chad. Tri-country specific reviews will assess climate risks and vulnerability to inform humanitarian operations, ”said Margherita Fanchiotti, Joint UN Environment / OCHA Unit.
“The Joint Environment Unit has twenty-five years of experience in pairing the humanitarian action mandate of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the environmental expertise of UN Environment. Agencies are working together to support the integration of environmental considerations into the humanitarian response to enable adaptation and building resilience, ”said Fanchiotti.
Since its creation in 1994, the Joint UN Environment / OCHA Unit has mobilized experts and equipment in response to environmental emergencies around the world, supported by a strong international network of partners. The joint unit, a partnership between UN Environment and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), has worked continuously to improve the response to the environmental impacts of sudden disasters and complex emergencies.
For more information, please contact Margherita Fanchiotti or Saidou Hamani
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