The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, is warning that the displacement crisis in the Horn of Africa and Sahel is getting worse as the impact of climate change and conflict are forcing more people to flee in search of safety and humanitarian assistance.
Climate shocks like floods and droughts are becoming more frequent and intense in Africa. Millions of people in Somalia and Ethiopia are struggling to find enough food, water and income to survive four consecutive years of drought.
Faced with this reality, the U.N. refugee agency says it is employing relief strategies to be better able to adapt to the new risks posed by climate change. The UNHCR representative in Somalia, Magatte Guisse, says Somalia is on the verge of a catastrophic famine.
He says that to help those most in need, his agency is setting up humanitarian hubs close to the most affected areas. He says helicopters will be used to transport staff and to deliver assistance.
“But other ideas also are to explore other options to link with community elders and any other actors in the community, which can help to reach the persons affected in those areas,” Guisse said. “This is part of our strategy, and it is ongoing.”
The UNHCR representative in Ethiopia, Mamadou Dian Balde, says 8 million people out of 20 million needing humanitarian assistance are affected by the ravages of climate change and insecurity.
These are people “who are already vulnerable because of lack of food and water,” Balde said. “And then even for accessing energy, you need to walk and move from one place to another. … For us, it is not only about lifesaving. Lifesaving is critical and we need that support now for immediate support. But we also need to help them build resilience, so that you can also get out of that perpetual request for support.”
Unlike the drought-stricken Horn of Africa, heavy rains have inundated Burkina Faso. Climate issues have brought new misery to a country that has one of the world’s fastest-growing displacement crises.
UNHCR’s representative in Burkina Faso, Abdouraouf Gnon-Konde, says attacks by armed groups have displaced 10 percent of the population, or 2 million people. He says the heavy rains have destroyed people’s homes and property and sent even more people fleeing.
One response being provided “is to make sure that, at least in all these open centers, where most of them are living, to make sure that the shelter response that we are providing is somehow, you know, compatible with the climate conditions,” Gnon-Konde said.
The UNHCR is appealing for funds to finance the technological support needed to avert, mitigate and tackle the displacement related to the adverse effects of extreme weather events.