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Bleak future awaits MENA if climate change effects not tackled

October 28, 2021 at 4:54 pm

Red Cross volunteers on a muddy street, strewn with litter and debris in Ahrweiler on 19 July 2021 [International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies]

Iraq will suffer further water shortages, while Yemen will experience greater floods and increased risk of waterborne diseases as a result of climate change, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warned in a new report.

The shocking publication laid bare the bleak future the Middle East and North Africa will face as climate change increases. ‘Displacement in a Changing Climateurges action to address the impact of climate-related displacement, and to take action before the problem intensifies and put aside funding to adapt to climate change and disaster risk reduction.

It found that the hardest hit communities will be the poorest in the world, already marginalised by factors like war and disaster.

This comes as governments prepare to meet in Glasgow for COP26; a much anticipated meeting on tackling climate change, with IFRC hoping this report will up the pressure on participants to reach a settlement on tackling climate consequences.

IFRC’s report detailed the impact of climate change on the already dire situation in Yemen, which is undergoing a humanitarian crisis and civil war, and cited extreme flooding in 2020, which exacerbated deadly diseases such as cholera, dengue, diphtheria and malaria.

In July, Yemen was once again wracked by storms and torrential flooding, destroying 5,400 homes, another 5,100 damaged. An estimated 174,000 people were affected by the extreme weather, and 30 died.

READ: 2.6 million displaced Yemenis face food shortages

Yemen Red Crescent, which has worked in Yemen extensively during the conflict, said its resources were depleted by this event, and it was now forward planning to factor in extreme weather, such as flooding and storms.

The report went on to detail the water crisis Iraq is experiencing, citing the effects of climate change as a factor exacerbating the impact of conflict and water mismanagement, predicting a bleak future for the country.

Iraq’s mean annual temperature will increase by two degrees, the report warned, and average rainfall will decrease by nine centimetres by 2050 on the current trajectory, which will lead to ever more frequent heatwaves and droughts.

Desertification, already a problem in Iraq due to depleting water supplies from main rivers Tigris and Euphrates, is said to be risking around 54 per cent of the land, with currently only 28 per cent being arable.

Destruction following a Tsunami [Rob Few/International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies]

It went on to say that many farmers had been driven into debt by extreme weather conditions to keep their animals alive.

The report quoted local farmer Amid Ali from Baaj as saying: “Because of the drought I was unable to harvest any wheat…  Now I am overwhelmed with debt.”

Iraqi children are also the victims of climate change, with no access to clean water, and less than half of schools having access to clean water, 60 per cent of children’s “health, nutrition, cognitive and future livelihoods” are at serious risk, IFRC warned.

Jagan Chapagain, IFRC secretary general, said: “Drought in Iraq, bushfires in Australia, floods in Germany, cyclones in Mozambique – climate-related disasters are happening everywhere right now forcing millions of people to leave their homes. At COP26 and beyond, we will make clear that urgent action and investment at the local level is needed to protect communities from climate-related displacement and to respond to its devastating impact when it occurs.”

This comes as the thinktank Transnational Institute revealed in a report that the world’s biggest polluters spend up to 15 times more on arming their borders than climate finance in an attempt to keep out refugees and migrants, of which numbers are projected to increase as climate change worsens.