By Kirsten Mildren
The writer is Head of Campaigns & Advocacy, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
NEW YORK (IDN) — On 19 August 2003, a bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, killed 22 humanitarian aid workers, including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Five years later, the General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 19 August as World Humanitarian Day.
Each year, World Humanitarian Day, which was commemorated on 19 August, focuses on a theme, bringing together partners from across the humanitarian system to advocate for the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crises, and for the safety and security of aid workers.
This year, the crises in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Haiti marked World Humanitarian Day with even greater poignancy.
But we are also highlighting the immediate human cost of the climate crisis by pressuring world leaders to take meaningful climate action for the world’s most vulnerable people.
The climate crisis is unfolding right before our eyes—from wildfires in Australia and California, heatwaves in Canada, and floods in Africa and Europe, to severe storms in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The pandemic did not slow down climate change. Last year, 12 of the 20 countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change had an inter-agency humanitarian appeal.
Leading climate scientist Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, said: “We will remember 2020 not just as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, but as the year that marked the world’s transition from a pre- to a post-climate-change world.”
He also said: “Last year was the warmest year on record, but in the future, we may look back and think of 2020 as one of the coolest years. Climate change is already uprooting lives, disrupting livelihoods and destroying infrastructure, leading to an increasing need for humanitarian assistance, which is going to be even more difficult to provide as donors tighten their purse strings.”
We now live in a world where the average global temperature is already 1.2°C warmer than the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level. We are headed for a catastrophic temperature rise of 3°C to 5°C this century.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies estimates that following climate-related disasters, the number of people in humanitarian need could double to over 200 million by 2050, and humanitarian funding needs could increase to US$20 billion annually by 2030.
In recognition of these facts, this year’s World Humanitarian Day received support from some of the biggest names in sports, plus partnerships with other UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, the Red Cross Movement and climate activists.
Hosted on the leading exercise app Strava, #TheHumanRace challenges users around the world to run, ride, swim, walk or do any activity of their choice for a cumulative 100 minutes until 31 August in solidarity with the world’s most vulnerable people. Anyone unable to take part physically can also sign up to support our call to action via the campaign microsite.
In the race against the climate crisis, no one should be left behind, including those already facing humanitarian crises.
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said: “The climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win … let’s lace up our running shoes and win the climate race for us all.”
Climate is changing everywhere, but people living in fragile circumstances feel the effects most severely. Climate change and conflict continue to exacerbate inequalities and cause massive suffering.
Last year, Cyclone Amphan in South Asia displaced nearly 5 million people—2.5 million of them in Bangladesh amid the worst flooding in a decade. Excessive rainfall caused major flooding and landslides across East Africa.
We call on everyone to join this year’s campaign to highlight the impact of the climate crisis on some of the most vulnerable people including women and girls in low-income countries, who lack the resources to be agents of change. [IDN-InDepthNews – 21 August 2021]
Top Photo: San Jose, Batangas (22 January 2020) —An evacuation centre in San Jose, Batangas where over 700 families are staying due to the continued eruption of Taal Volcano. The Philippines is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries. Photo credit: OCHA/P. Peron
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