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  • Millions of people in Mozambique and the Horn of Africa are currently suffering the consequences of prolonged droughts and devastating cyclones.

    Millions of people in Mozambique and the Horn of Africa are currently suffering the consequences of prolonged droughts and devastating cyclones. | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 September 2019
Opinion

The least responsible for the climate-related catastrophes are those who pay the highest cost, according to Oxfam.

People living in the world's 48 poorest countries are given around US$3 per person and per year to secure themselves from the disastrous consequences of the climate crisis, according to a report published Monday by United Kingdom-based aid group Oxfam.

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The group released its report, “Who Takes The Heat?”, as the UN Climate Action Summit in New York ended Monday. The report, which focuses on the countries located in the Horn of Africa and Mozambique, shows that even if they are the least responsible for the climate-related catastrophes, people in these countries are the ones who face unfair human and financial burden. 

“Wealthy governments are failing to live up to their promise to help poor nations adapt to the climate crisis. The poorest and most indebted nations on Earth have done the least to cause this crisis but are being left to foot the bill,” Oxfam's Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said, adding that “to avoid a downward spiral of ever more frequent humanitarian crises we need more funds for adaptation in the hands of the poorest communities. This should be genuine assistance, not loans that need to be paid back.”

In countries like Somalia and Mozambique, elevated levels of debt further worsen the impacts of climate shocks and squeeze the resources that could enable them to become more resilient to future climate disasters and to develop in a low-carbon way. 

Somalia’s debt stands at 75 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and any climate finance provided in the form of loans risks pushing the country deeper into debt. Oxfam calculates that around two-thirds of climate finance is provided in the form of loans that need to be repaid.  

“Millions of Somalis, especially women and children, are facing the reality of starvation and their livelihoods decimated by this third failure of the seasonal rains in a row. This humanitarian crisis, unfolding so soon after the 2017 drought, is further hampering recovery efforts by the affected communities,” Deputy Director with Oxfam partner organization Save Somali Women and Children Halima Adan said. 

Mozambique underwent U.S.$3.2 billion worth of damage after two cyclones hit the country earlier this year. The amount of money represents more than a fifth of its GDP. “As well as immediate emergency assistance to save lives, we need climate action with a focus of resilience building to lessen the impact of future humanitarian crises,” the report warns.

Millions of people in Mozambique and the Horn of Africa are currently suffering the consequences of prolonged droughts and devastating cyclones, as alarming signs of other catastrophes to come are showing, unless urgent action from world leaders is taken the report highlights. 

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 “The slow response to the cyclone devastation has increased the risk of diseases such as cholera and malaria and has left many people suffering from depression as a result of the increased physical, emotional and financial burdens. Many families are still without food with their children are dropping out of school as a result,” said Jose Mucote, the founder of the Mozambican humanitarian organization AJOAGO.

In 2018, the drought in the Horn of Africa has left more than 15 million people in need of humanitarian help. Repeated cyclones in Mozambique have left 2.6 million people in need of assistance. 

Substantial levels of climate finance provided annually would allow the poorest countries to reduce the impact of climate shocks by, for example, diversifying crops, conserving water or investing in better weather monitoring systems. 

In 2009, developed countries agreed to reach US$100 billion per year in climate finance by 2020 to help poorer nations in climate adaptation. However, they reported last week that they have reached US$71 billion, which is according to Oxfam certainly an overstatement that is still substantially short of that target. 

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