On 19 August, the United Nations celebrates World Humanitarian Day. The history of this day dates to the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad, Iraq, on 19 August 2003, killing 22 people and wounding over 100, including the United Nations’ Special Representative in Iraq Sérgio Vieira de Mello (1948-2003), and wounded over 100, including human rights lawyer and political activist Dr Amin Mekki Medani. The day has been observed in their honour every year since 2009, choosing a different theme every year to unite stakeholders in the humanitarian system.
From 31 October – 12 November 2021, political leaders from around the world will meet in Glasgow, Scotland for an extremely important event. The UN Climate Summit (COP26), hopefully, will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
It is no surprise that the theme for this year’s World Humanitarian Day is the immediate human cost of the climate crisis. The organisers are encouraging everyone to exert pressure on world leaders to take meaningful climate action for the world’s most vulnerable people. “The damage to people and livelihoods caused by climate change is happening at a scale that “people on the front lines cannot manage”, according to the UN’s humanitarian office, OCHA.
The United Nations World Food Programme says that for millions of people across Africa, Asia and Latin America, climate change means “more frequent and intense floods, droughts and storms, accounting for up to 90 per cent of all climate-related disasters. In fact almost half of this organisation’s emergency and recovery operations are in response to climate disasters.
The UK Met Office has produced an interesting and informative map that showing the parts of the world suffering from food insecurity due to climate change. To visit and learn more, click here.
The UN’s humanitarian office OCHA is underlining that the clock is ticking for millions who are already dying, becoming homeless and unable to make a living due to extreme weather events destroying communities around the planet. In Africa, rainfall patterns have shifted, and the seasonal rain that made plants grow to feed animals to support people has disappeared or become shorter. Crop yields have shrunk and vegetation is sparse.
In Bangladesh, heavy monsoon rains flood rivers, which burst their banks and inundate huge areas of low lying country, destroying homes and possessions. In Mozambique, cyclones are razing houses to the ground, leaving families homeless.
Ironically, it is those in the poorest nations who have not benefited from the industrialisation responsible for climate change who are bearing the brunt of the devastation caused by harmful greenhouse gases. If you would like to learn more about the communities struggling to stay alive due to climate change, click here.
The United Nations is urging everyone to run, ride, swim or do any activity of your choice for a cumulative 100 minutes between August 16 and August 31 in solidarity with vulnerable people and to tell world leaders that you expect developed countries to comply with their promise to earmark $100 billion annually for climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. To take part, just click here, and if you don’t wish to take part physically you can add your voice.
At the time of writing, and in the wake of the assassination of the country’s president, Jovenel Moïse, just a month ago, the impoverished state of Haiti is reeling from the devastating impact of a magnitude 7.2 earthquake, which, at the time of writing has already claimed 1,200 lives, injured 2,800 and destroyed and damaged more than 5,000 homes. Homeless victims are building themselves shelters with branches, sheets, and pieces of plastic as they await further devastation from flash floods and mudslides.
The United Nations is sending support rescue and relief to the stricken island, with teams on the ground making assessments and prioritising urgent needs. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is warning that children and families displaced by the earthquake are in urgent need of shelter, clean water, medical care, and protection. To donate, click here.
In the meantime, far away in Afghanistan, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN human rights office (OHCHR) say that the country is on course to witness its highest ever number of documented civilian casualties in a single year since records began. According to spokesperson Shabia Mantoo, “eighty per cent of nearly 250,000 Afghans forced to flee since the end of May are women and children”. More women and children were killed and wounded in the first half of 2021 than in the same period since records began. A dark future looms, with the Taliban now in control, having been responsible for assaults on hospitals, girls’ schools, and protected persons.
If you would like to help with a donation, you can donate to ACNUR here.