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Africa: Climate change is plunging an already poor continent into further poverty

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Africa: Climate change is plunging an already poor continent into further poverty

The climate crisis is rapidly seeping into the pores of Africa’s very existence as drought, rising rivers, and raging wildfires destroy livelihoods, and food becomes scarcer and less nutritious.


According to the World Health Organization, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 extra deaths (from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress alone) per year between 2030 and 2050.


Owing to the fact that climate change doesn’t affect everyone to the same degree, poor families in developing countries (mostly concentrated on the continent) currently bear the worst impact despite being the least contributors. Worse still, these poor families are ill-equipped to shield themselves from the impacts of climate change unlike families in developed countries.


To put this into context, a rich family will most likely get air conditioning or a better-ventilated apartment during heat waves but a poor family has no financial capacity to adapt. When it rains heavily and it floods, poor families who often live in low-lying areas are greatly affected.


Then there’s the case of hunger due to climate change affecting food supplies. Where will the poor get enough money to meet up with soaring food prices? But it doesn’t just end there.


Beyond extreme weather events such as floods, heatwaves, droughts, and storms, climate change is threatening the way of life and survival of many communities in Africa and plunging an already poor continent into further poverty.


In 2010, the United Nations linked climate change to poverty and hunger, citing that 75% of the world’s poor living in rural areas count on natural resources such as forests, lakes, and oceans for their livelihoods and climate change is depleting these resources.


Prolonged droughts are disrupting food supplies and drying up water sources in Africa. This is causing crops to wither, rivers to dry up, and animals to starve and as a result, destroying the livelihoods of families whose well-being is completely dependent on farming, fishing, and selling livestock.


Then, there’s the case of floods and landslides destroying homes.


The world Bank has warned that without urgent action, climate change could push an additional 100 million people into poverty.


Way forward


Insurance: We need to insure families against disasters in Africa. Livestock insurance is one of the ways that can be achieved. Without measures like insurance, families may have no choice but to sell off livestock when they’re unable to keep them alive. Alternatively, they may search tirelessly for water and pasture for their herds – only to run out of options.


Market skills: Lack of access to markets and limited entrepreneurial skills will leave families highly vulnerable and barely subsisting. But with the right skills and access to markets, pastoralist families in Africa can grow their income and improve their food security.


Educate: We need to help communities understand the effects of climate change – and what they can do to stand up to them. People need to know why natural disasters are increasing in frequency and severity and what they can do to mitigate them.


Policy: Governments in Africa need to formulate and implement policies that allow for drastic mitigation and adaptation measures. Loan access must also be prioritized for families whose livelihoods are being threatened by the crisis.


Finally, the continent must shy away from being reactive instead of proactive. investment in technologies such as early warning systems and tools needed for effective climate-smart agriculture must be encouraged across all levels.

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