Road to COP27: Three ways to stop the climate crisis whipping up a hunger storm

The climate crisis is pushing more and more people to the brink in a year of unprecedented hunger. Heatwaves, droughts, floods and storms are increasing in intensity and frequency, impacting people’s ability to feed their families.


In contexts such as Yemen, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where climate impacts intersect with conflict, famine is an ever-present threat.


So, as world leaders prepare to gather in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt for the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) between 6 and 18 November, the World Food Programme (WFP) is calling for urgent action to support those on the frontlines of the climate emergency.


Here are three things they must focus on:


  1. Scale up climate adaptation and solutions to avert, minimize and address loss and damage


From devastating floods in Pakistan affecting one in seven people in the country, to consecutive droughts pushing people to the edge of famine in the Horn of Africa, extreme weather events are happening in every region of the world.


Communities need solutions to protect themselves and their ability to access enough food. Global leaders must invest in systems that predict climate hazards and provide physical and financial protection to the most vulnerable.


Ahead of recent floods in Nepal, for example, WFP triggered its anticipatory action programme — which uses early warning systems to ensure action before disasters hit — transferring cash to more than 15,000 people across three of the hardest hit districts. The funds helped communities to prepare for the floods, protect themselves and prevent losses and damages; for example, by buying food, reinforcing homes or moving vulnerable people to higher ground.


  1. Invest in climate action in communities in fragile contexts


Those living on the frontlines of climate change are often also impacted by conflict, displacement and social inequalities. These communities need the most support, yet they receive the least. Over the past seven years, non-fragile states received 80 times more climate finance per person than extremely fragile states.


To tackle the climate crisis and ensure everyone has enough food to eat, we must prioritize action and funding for vulnerable and conflict-hit areas, supporting communities to adapt to a changing climate, while also building peace.


WFP projects focus on both. For instance, in Somalia earlier this year, knowing the country would continue to be gripped by extreme drought, WFP worked with the Government to deliver early-warning messages to 1.2 million people. WFP also reached 17,000 vulnerable people living in remote areas with cash transfers, to better protect their lives and livelihoods.


As Somalia faces the imminent threat of famine in parts of the country, prioritizing climate action for the most vulnerable communities is more important than ever.


  1. Transform food systems


The range of activities that produce, process and transport food to our tables are neither equitable or sustainable. On the one hand, extreme weather events cause destruction right across food systems; on the other, food systems are leading contributors to global heating. Agriculture, transportation and cooking all contribute significant, harmful emissions that are raising the temperature of our planet.


The lack of diversity in our food systems, reliance on polluting practices and exposure to disruptions such as conflict, are threatening global food security. A record 345 million people in 82 countries currently face acute hunger — up from 282 million at the start of the year.


This does not need to be a downward spiral. We know the world has enough food for everyone if it were simply distributed equitably. We also have the knowledge, technology and innovative solutions to reverse the negative relationship between food systems and climate change.


What WFP is doing


Across 123 countries and territories, WFP supports communities facing some of the worst impacts of extreme weather events to build their resilience in a changing climate.


We work with local governments to anticipate climate hazards before they turn into disasters, restore degraded ecosystems and infrastructure, protect the most vulnerable with financial safety nets and give people new opportunities to farm, cook and power their homes through access to clean energy.


In five Sahel countries of West and Central Africa — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — WFP implements an integrated resilience programme that supports climate adaptation whilst also protecting food systems.


In practice this means rehabilitating land, improving peoples’ access to food and healthy diets, getting children back into school and developing value chains to boost incomes and green jobs.


For example, despite rising insecurity in the region, WFP and communities have rehabilitated nearly 158,000 hectares of degraded land in the Sahel over the past four years through initiatives like digging ‘half moons’ — which catch and keep rainfall in the soil.


With increased ambition and political will, we can diversify, decarbonize and improve the resilience of our food systems to simultaneously tackle the climate crisis and food insecurity.


World leaders have a huge challenge ahead of them, but with coordinated global action, we can tackle the climate crisis.




Source: World Food Programme

The coldest year of the rest of their lives – Protecting children from the escalating impacts of heatwaves [EN/AR/ZH]

LONDON/NEW YORK, 25 October, 2022 – 559 million children are currently exposed to high heatwave frequency*, according to new research from UNICEF. Further, 624 million children are exposed to one of three other high heat measures – high heatwave duration, high heatwave severity or extreme high temperatures.


During a year in which heatwaves in both the southern and northern hemispheres broke records, *The Coldest Year Of The Rest Of Their Lives: Protecting Children From The Escalating Impacts Of Heatwaves * highlights the already extensive impact of heatwaves on children and reveals that, even at lower levels of global heating, in just three decades, more regular heatwaves are unavoidable for children everywhere.


The report estimates that by 2050, all of the world’s 2.02 billion children are expected to be exposed to high heatwave frequency, regardless of whether the world achieves a ‘low greenhouse gas emission scenario’ with an estimated 1.7 degrees of warming in 2050 or a ‘very high greenhouse gas emission scenario’ with an estimated 2.4 degrees of warming in 2050.


Produced in collaboration with The Data for Children Collaborative and launched in partnership with UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Vanessa Nakate and Africa-based Rise Up Movement, these findings underscore the urgent need to adapt the services children rely on as unavoidable impacts of global heating unfold. It also makes a case for continued mitigation, to prevent the worst impacts of the other high heat measures, including sustained and severe heatwaves and extreme high temperatures.


“The mercury is rising and so are the impacts on children,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said. “Already, 1 in 3 children live in countries that face extreme high temperatures and almost 1 in 4 children are exposed to high heatwave frequency, and it is only going to get worse. More children will be impacted by longer, hotter and more frequent heatwaves over the next thirty years, threatening their health and wellbeing. How devastating these changes will be depends on the actions we take now. At a minimum, governments must urgently limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius and double adaptation funding by 2025. This is the only way to save children’s lives and futures – and the future of the planet.”


Heatwaves are especially damaging to children, as they are less able to regulate their body temperature compared to adults. The more heatwaves children are exposed to, the greater the chance of health problems including chronic respiratory conditions, asthma, and cardiovascular diseases. Babies and young children are at the greatest risk of heat-related mortality. Heatwaves can also affect children’s environments, their safety, nutrition and access to water, and their education and future livelihood.


The report found high heatwave duration currently impacts 538 million, or 23 per cent of, children globally. This will rise to 1.6 billion children in 2050 at 1.7 degrees warming, and 1.9 billion children at 2.4 degrees warming, emphasising the importance of urgent and dramatic emissions mitigation and adaptation measures to contain global heating and protect lives.


Millions more children will be exposed to high heatwave severity and extreme high temperatures depending on the degree of global heating reached. Children in northern regions, especially Europe, will face the most dramatic increases in high severity heatwaves and, by 2050, nearly half of all children in Africa and Asia will face sustained exposure to extreme high temperatures.


Currently 23 countries fall into the highest category for child exposure to extreme high temperatures. This will rise to 33 countries by 2050 under the low emissions scenario and 36 countries under the very high emissions scenario. Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, Sudan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan are among the countries likely to remain in the highest category in both scenarios.


“The climate shocks of 2022 provided a strong wakeup call about the increasing danger hurtling towards us,” said Vanessa Nakate, climate activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. “Heatwaves are a clear example. As hot as this year has been in almost every corner of the world, it will likely be the coldest year of the rest of our lives. The dial is being turned up on our planet and yet our world leaders haven’t begun to sweat. The only option is for us to continue to turn up the heat – on them – to correct the course we are on. World leaders must do this at COP27 for children everywhere, but especially the most vulnerable children in the most affected places. Unless they take action, and soon, this report makes it clear that heatwaves will become even harsher than they are already destined to be.”


UNICEF is calling on governments to:


PROTECT children from climate devastation by adapting social services. Every country must adapt critical social services – water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), health, education, nutrition, social protection and child protection – to protect children and young people. For example, food systems must be strengthened to withstand hazards and ensure continued access to healthy diets. Increased investments must be made in the early prevention, detection and treatment of severe malnutrition in children, mothers and vulnerable populations. At COP27, children and their rights must be prioritized in decisions on adaptation.


PREPARE children to live in a climate-changed world. Every country must provide children and young people with climate change education, disaster risk reduction education, green skills training and opportunities to meaningfully participate and influence climate policy making. COP27 must see countries strengthen the focus on children’s climate education and empowerment in the ACE action plan, adopt it, and implement previous commitments to build youth capacity.


PRIORITIZE children and young people in climate finance and resources. Developed countries must deliver on their COP26 agreement to double adaptation funding to $40bn per year by 2025 at a minimum, as a step to delivering at least $300bn per year for adaptation by 2030. Adaptation funding must make up half of all climate finance. COP27 must unlock progress on loss and damage, placing the resilience of children and their communities at the center of discussions on action and support.


PREVENT a climate catastrophe by drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keep 1.5 degrees Celsius alive. Emissions are projected to rise by 14% this decade, putting us on a path to catastrophic global heating. All governments must revisit their national climate plans and policies to increase ambition and action. They must cut emissions by at least 45% by 2030 to keep heating to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.



Source: UN Children’s Fund

FAO advocates for scaling up the early warning and anticipatory action approaches at a regional meeting

Maputo – “When I received the SMS alert in the last week of April indicating that there was going to be heavy rain in the following three days, I was able to speed up the harvesting of sorghum crop before it got moisture damaged,” Thulani Maposa said during a review of the Early Warning Messaging Activity in her area. She is from Fumukwe (Ward 17) in Zimbabwe.

Thulani’s story is one of the several that depict the importance of early warning and anticipatory actions among farming communities.

At the Southern Africa Ministerial Meeting on Integrated Early Warning and Early Action System Initiative, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) called on governments and partners in southern Africa to support and invest in scaling up early warning systems and anticipatory approaches for resilient agrifood systems in the region.

“Agriculture is among the most exposed sectors to these extreme weather hazards. Studies have shown that using an early warning anticipatory approach is more cost-effective than reactive approaches. FAO is committed to supporting Southern Africa Member States’ efforts to scale up actions in early warning and anticipatory action,” Patrice Talla, Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa, told the conference.

The meeting aimed to strengthen disaster preparedness and expand early warning systems in the countries through an anticipatory approach to protect lives and livelihoods.

A shift from a reaction to prevention

The scale and complexities of these extreme hazard events, and the wide-ranging impact they have on countries, require moving from responding to preventing the impact on crops and livelihoods.

The 2021/2022 rainfall season saw six cyclonic systems bring devastating torrential rainfall that brought colossal damage to the region within a period of six weeks, including Mozambique and Madagascar. In April 2022, South Africa suffered severe flooding and landslides affecting cropland and livestock.

In Southern Africa, FAO is supporting member states in developing early warning systems. Through funding from German Federal Foreign Office in Zimbabwe, the European Union funding, and USAID funding in Tanzania, FAO has worked with government and other partners to set up contextualized early warning and short-range forecasting information systems for farming communities in the targeted group.

The farming communities receive early warning and advisories in their preferred languages, enabling them to understand better the conditions being described and make informed decisions.

Investing in early warning tools

Additionally, FAO is supporting member states in monitoring and containment of outbreaks of transboundary crop pests and animal diseases.

Working with NASA Harvest and the University of Maryland, FAO is spearheading the using earth observation tools to improve crop monitoring capabilities and to produce advanced yield forecasts in Malawi and Namibia.

In collaboration with Penn State University, FAO developed and rolled out the eLocust3m app locust early warning system in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The system enables early detection of locust outbreaks.

These tools allow countries to better predict potential supply shortfalls and take well-informed decisions to support anticipatory action to protect lives and livelihoods from increasingly extreme weather and climate change impacts.

“The eLocust3m app is an innovative tool that has helped to strengthen data collection and reporting more accurately on locust infestation. Farmers and extensionists in ǁKaras Region use the app in pest control, reporting and early warning,” said Fabian Booys, an agronomist technician for the Ministry of Agriculture, Namibia.

Integrating indigenous knowledge in early warning systems

Utilizing all opportunities in early warning systems will help to forecast the likely impact, and assist relevant institutions and people at risk. There is significant potential for indigenous knowledge systems especially of farmers in the rural communities who face weather hazards and risks each day of their lives.

The Southern Africa Ministerial meeting commited to support and take an active role to ensure all citizens, in particular the most vulnerable communities in southern Africa are covered by effective Early Warning and Early Action System initiatives.



Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations