Climate change loss and damage finance should be COP27 priority

Egypt COP27

A picture shows a view of the main entrance of the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre, in Egypt's Red Sea Resort on November 5, 2022-the eve of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as COP27. 

Photo credit: AFP

The catastrophic effects of climate change are being felt across the globe, including by close to 43 million people in East Africa. All key sectors in the region—health, agriculture, education, food, shelter, water, hygiene, sanitation, tourism and income generation—have been affected by extreme weather events that have altered lives and ways of life.

In Somalia, 7.8 million people are experiencing the worst drought in 40 years, following the fourth consecutive failed rain season. By early September, at least 730 children had reportedly died at nutrition centres and thousands more were malnourished.

Access to water is becoming increasingly challenging as most water points have dried up, raising the price. Women and girls have to walk long distances in search of water, exposing them to gender-based violence (GBV).

In South Sudan, over 7.74 million people are hungry due to, among other factors, four consecutive years of flooding as excess rainfall led to rising water levels. Since early last month, floods have displaced over 900,000 people and hampered the delivery of aid.

In Kenya, four failed rain seasons have exacerbated drought in 23 of 47 counties. This has made almost a million children under five and 115,725 pregnant and nursing women acutely malnourished. About 2.4 million livestock—which pastoralists rely on for sustenance—have died in six counties.

In Ethiopia, water and food shortages have raised malnutrition among communities.

In 2019-2020, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia suffered two massive locust invasions that devastated vegetation, destroying the livelihoods of millions of pastoralists and farmers.

Communities that have contributed least to climate change are the most affected by the crisis. The region contributes less than one per cent of emissions yet suffers due to the actions of others. It is imperative that the affected are not left to suffer on their own. Climate justice is essential for these countries.

A key issue that must be addressed at the 27th Climate Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP27), in Egypt from November 6-18, is financing for countries that have suffered loss and damage due to climate change.

These are the devastating effects that cannot be avoided by mitigation, adaptation or any other measures, such as disaster risk management. With a fund, the affected can access finance swiftly, in the form of grants, not loans, to mitigate further effects of climate change.

Grants, not loans

Decades of progress are being eroded in the Horn of Africa due to climate change-induced droughts and floods. Hence, financing should be addressed with urgency. And it should be in the form of grants, not loans so that the countries are not overburdened by heavy debts because of the financing.

Key blockers who do not want to have the discussion need to realise that the Global South is devastated by climate change. There is a need for consensus on supporting developing nations affected by the leading emitters. An increase in adaptation and mitigation efforts is necessary, as is support for humanitarian responses to help the affected.

Another key issue that needs addressing at COP27 is gender-just climate action. The impacts of climate change have further highlighted and brought back the glaring gender inequalities that women and girls face. 

Unicef reports that at least 3.6 million children across Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are at risk of dropping out of school due to the drought. In Somalia, more girls are being pulled out of class to join their parents and guardians in the search for food. That exposes them to dangers such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and even child marriage.

A Rapid Gender Analysis by CARE International shows women often prioritise the limited food to feed their children and spouses, putting them at risk of malnutrition, particularly those pregnant or breastfeeding. That increases the risk of miscarriage and maternal mortality, stillbirth, low birth weight and stunting for their children, leading to an intergenerational cycle of malnutrition.

At COP27, governments should take a stand to make decisions and actions that ensure gender integration and sexual and reproductive health rights are anchored in all areas of climate policy and climate financing talks.

The impact of climate change is here with us. The actions and steps we take are essential to secure a future for the next generation.

Ms Maina-Vorley is the regional director for the East and Central Africa region at CARE International. [email protected]. @katevorley