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In war-torn, climate-affected states, little hope for new funds


SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — In conflict-ridden countries like Yemen and Somalia, devastating floods and droughts are killing hundreds and uprooting tens of thousands.

These countries and many others in the Middle East and Africa have been embroiled in turmoil and wars for several years. Today, climate change is another disaster for those who are already struggling to survive.

The United Nations climate conference, which ended last weekend in Egypt, created a new fund to help poor and vulnerable countries hit hard by climate change. Countries like Yemen and Somalia are among the poorest and most vulnerable in the world to the impacts of climate change as they are less able to adapt to extreme weather conditions.

But they have little or no access to climate finance.

Conflict-affected countries are unlikely to receive funding because they lack stable governments, said Nisreen el-Saim, chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group.

“They don’t have institutions to get climate finance,” she said. “You need to have strong institutions, which don’t exist in many countries.”

Robert Mardini, director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that “close to zero amount of climate finance” is reaching conflict-affected countries “because the decision-makers who decide to allocate these funds consider that it’s too risky to invest” there.

He warned that the worst is yet to come for Yemenis and Somalis amid worsening food shortages.

These policymakers “need to reconsider risk appetite because there are also big risks in not investing in these countries and huge (human) costs that should be avoided,” he said.

In Yemen, a third of the population – 19 million people – are unable to find enough food in 2022, up from 15 million last year. Among them, 161,000 are living in near-famine conditions, according to the UN food agency.

Children and women are the most affected, with 1.3 million pregnant and breastfeeding women and 2.2 million children under 5 suffering from acute malnutrition. Among them, 538,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

Yemen has been enduring a brutal civil war since 2014, when Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital, Sanaa, forcing the government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition went to war in early 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government to power.

The conflict has devastated the country, created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and, over the years, escalated into a regional proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. More than 150,000 people were killed, including more than 14,500 civilians.

The country has also suffered from droughts, soil erosion and floods which are getting worse every year. According to the UN agriculture agency, rainfall this year was 45% higher than in 2021.

At least 72 people have been killed in floods this year, and some 74,000 families in 19 of the country’s 22 provinces have been affected, with people living in displacement camps bearing the brunt of the deluge. There are 4.3 million people displaced, most homeless due to the raging conflict, according to UN figures.

To meet growing humanitarian needs, the World Food Program says it needs more than $1 billion through March 2023.

The situation is worse in Somalia. The country is heading towards famine, according to the UN. The prolonged drought has brought hunger and death to hundreds of thousands of people.

The country has suffered its fifth consecutive failed rainy season this year, forcing at least 700,000 people from their homes, said Mohamed Osman, economic adviser to the Somali president.

He said Somalia needed $55.5 billion in investments and assistance over the next 10 years to be able to recover from climate shocks.

“Somalia is already paying the price,” he said. “We haven’t received anything so far and in total Africa has received less.”

In the past two months alone, more than 55,000 Somalis have fled drought and conflict to neighboring Kenya, and that number is expected to rise to 120,000 in the coming months, according to the International Rescue Committee.

“Hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees will struggle to find life-saving assistance fleeing to Kenya this year unless urgent action is taken,” said IRC Kenya Director Mohamed El Montassir Hussein.

Somalia descended into chaos after the 1991 ousting of longtime dictator Siad Barre by warlords who then turned on each other. Al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab militants are also active in the country which occupied a strategically important position in the Horn of Africa.

In Nigeria, seasonal rainfall and floods have killed more than 55 people in extreme weather conditions scientists say is 80 times more likely due to climate change. About 20 million people in the country are estimated to face acute food insecurity due to crop losses and declining yields, according to official figures.

The ICRC has warned of an outbreak of cholera and other water-borne diseases amid severe shortages of life-saving aid, including shelter, water, sanitation, food and medical care. emergency health.

The northeastern regions of the country, where years of fighting against the Islamic insurgency have been concentrated, have been the most affected.

“With over 440,000 hectares of land already affected by this flood, the scale of its effect on food security can be best imagined,” said Benson Agbro, disaster response officer for the Nigerian Red Cross Society.

Agbro added that they urgently need more than $13.5 million to address the dire humanitarian conditions in the hardest hit areas.

“But in the longer term, we also need to build resilience to climate shocks, because we know that conflict-affected communities are among the most vulnerable to climate change,” he said.

The Russian war in Ukraine has also doubled the hardship and cost of living for people in conflict-affected countries, according to Mardini of the Red Cross.

“There is a ripple effect from the international armed conflict in Ukraine,” he said, pointing to soaring food, energy, fertilizer prices and supply chain tension.

“So doing the same thing in a place like Somalia or Mali is more expensive for us, and we have to raise more funds from our donors to do the same kind of project that we used to do there. a year,” he said.

Osman, the Somali official, said additional efforts are also needed for conflict-affected countries to access funds beyond the proposed new compensation deal. The package is just one part of a proposed “mosaic of financing arrangements” for climate-vulnerable nations.

He called for “innovative ways” to receive funds, including debt relief initiatives and help build government institutions.

“No country should be left behind,” he said.

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