Communities in eastern Uganda woke up to devastating months of July and August. By mid-August, at least 30 people had lost their lives due to flash floods, with about 6,000 being displaced from their homes.
“These communities in Uganda are at the frontline of the climate crises experiencing massive losses and damage as a result of climate triggered disasters,” said Philip Kilonzo, a climate activist based in Nairobi, noting that the region has never had any history of disasters of such a magnitude.
And now, according to Africa’s civil society organisations meeting in Libreville, Gabon, ahead of the Africa Climate Week that begins on August 29 to September 2, the plight of such communities must be heard and decisions to support them made by negotiators at the upcoming 27th round of negotiations on climate change (COP27) in Egypt in November.
According to Dr Mithika Mwenda, the executive director for the Pan Africa Climate Justice Alliance, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the global community must create highly accessible climate financing for such communities in the frontline of the climate crisis.
“There is also an urgent need to advance the implementation of climate response measures that enable Africa to address its climate challenges as a special needs and circumstances region,” said Dr Mwenda.
This comes at a time when the Horn of Africa region is facing its worst drought in more than 40 years despite the floods in Uganda.
According to a new report released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Kenya is among the countries in the region that are facing the most prolonged drought in recent history.
“Across the Horn of Africa, at least 36.1 million people have now been affected by the drought which began in October 2020, including 24.1 million in Ethiopia, 7.8 million in Somalia and 4.2 million in Kenya,” reads part of the report.
Ahead of COP27, the activists in Libreville are calling for establishment of a loss and damage financing facility, which resonates with the recent messaging of developing countries during the technical process in preparation for the Egypt climate summit in November.
“Full operationalisation of the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage at COP27 is critical,” said Munir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN and the current chair of the 134 member states that form the G-77 and China.
The “Santiago Network on Loss and Damage” is an initiative launched by the UNFCCC to connect vulnerable developing countries with providers of technical assistance, knowledge and the resources they need to address climate risks comprehensively in the context of averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage.
Apart from perennial floods and droughts that have always devastated particularly the northern parts of Kenya and Uganda, lakes in Kenya’s Great Rift region have slowly been rising, thereby displacing thousands of households and causing substantial losses to the economy, land, and livelihoods.
According to a study conducted by the UN Environment Programme in collaboration with Kenyatta University, the rising water levels of the Rift Valley Lakes, Turkwel Gorge Dam, and Lake Victoria, is due to hydro-meteorological variables due to climate change that have led to increased moisture availability as seen in the rainfall data and discharge of the rivers feeding the lakes.
The study shows that the increasing water levels are now changing the composition of lake water, thus affecting biodiversity.
“This is manifested in the reduced number of flamingos who feed on algae whose growth has been affected by the change in alkalinity of the lake waters,” reads part of the study.
Government data shows that approximately 75,987 households have been displaced in the 13 affected counties with a total population of 379,935 requiring urgent humanitarian assistance.
The affected communities have endured disruptions to their livelihoods.
They have lost assets such as homes, grazing lands and farming fields which have been destroyed or marooned by the floods.
The rising waters levels have destroyed social amenities, forcing many to use boat transport to access services across flooded areas.
“We need a finance facility to cushion all these communities from these kinds of vulnerabilities, and also assist those who have already lost their property to find alternative livelihoods,” said Mr Kilonzo.