Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are working closely with communities in countries where the convergence of climate change, armed conflict and health emergencies is a grim reality. Of the 25 countries most vulnerable to climate change and least ready to adapt, the majority are also experiencing armed conflict. In many of these locations, people lack access to basic healthcare. When climate shocks occur in countries with limited food, water and economic resources, people’s lives, health, and livelihoods are threatened.
Somalia has suffered through an erratic cycle of droughts and floods in recent years, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation further complicated by three decades of armed conflict. People have limited time to adapt because the shocks are so frequent and severe.
Humanitarian organisations have also been responding to flooding in South Sudan and across the Sahel; devastating cyclones in Madagascar and Mozambique; and severe drought in the Horn of Africa. The climate crisis worsens health and humanitarian crises.
As humanitarians, we are alarmed by the current reality and projections for the future. We see droughts, floods, insect plagues and changing rainfall patterns which can all jeopardise food production and people’s means of survival. We see more extreme and more powerful weather events such as cyclones which destroy essential health infrastructure. We see changing patterns of deadly diseases such as malaria, dengue and cholera. Conflict and violence increase the need for emergency health assistance while also limiting the capacity of health facilities.
All these situations are occurring in a world that has warmed 1.2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, as we witness how the world’s most vulnerable pay the deadly price of a problem overwhelmingly caused by the world’s richest nations. Additional warming will lead to disastrous consequences unless urgent and ambitious mitigation measures are taken and adequate support is mobilised for the most affected people and countries so they can adapt to growing climate risks.