Saturday, June 30, 2007

Complex new emergencies create adaptation challenge

Relief Web: Climate-change impacts are creating new complex emergencies around the world, above all in Africa, according to speakers at a conference in The Hague organized by the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. The rapid succession of drought-flood-drought was causing almost permanent disaster conditions in some parts of Africa, according to Abdishakur Othowai, drought project manager at the Kenya Red Cross. Large numbers of people were being displaced and ending up in camps, where the HIV rate then soared.

"Once people would have thought all this was an act of God," Othowai added, "but it’s been going on for ten years now and they’re saying the weather has changed, the climate has changed." "There is no single, normal season; no cropping season for farmers. "Our policy now is to tell people that we have to adapt because this phenomenon will be with us for a very long time."

Opening the conference, on "the humanitarian consequences of climate change", International Federation deputy secretary general Ibrahim Osman said global warming had also "intensified conflict and tension in places like Darfur" and was now "a International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement issue".

The Red Cross Red Crescent, according to Osman, had always focused on humanitarian consequences rather than the scientific debate about the role of carbon emissions. Climate change would be prominent on the agenda of the Movement’s international conference this November, he said, where spreading knowledge about vulnerabilities and pledging more resources would be "the two main pillars."

…Many environmental organizations were already campaigning on carbon emissions, said Helmer, but hardly anyone was looking seriously at what climate-change impacts were doing to vulnerable people in poor countries.

…The conference, which ended yesterday, brought together Red Cross and Red Crescent disaster managers from the regions of the world most affected by climate-change impacts, including the small-island nations of the Pacific and Caribbean, and Africa, Asia and the Americas, as well as European Societies, the International Federation and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

…"Disasters are translating themselves into chronic situations," said Ian Burton, a scientific adviser to the Climate Centre and a leading contributor to "Working Group II" – on impacts and adaptation – of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. There was an urgent need for "a long-term strategy".

"We have to adapt everything," he said.

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