Poverty and Extreme Weather PatternsExtreme weather patterns disproportionately affect developing countries, despite their contribution of less than 4% to global greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the intersection of poverty and these climatic events amplifies the challenges faced by these nations. The least developed countries account for 69% of climate-related disaster deaths. This convergence of poverty and extreme weather patterns demands action to mitigate its far-reaching impacts.

Impacts of Extreme Weather Patterns on Developing Countries

Developing countries face many adverse effects stemming from extreme weather patterns and events. The World Bank projects that more than 100 million people will be thrust into poverty over the next seven years due to the ramifications of these extreme weather events. Furthermore, by 2050, climate-related food and water insecurity are expected to displace more than 216 million individuals from their homes. Presently, more than 94 million people in developing nations are affected by climate shocks and extremes, leading to severe repercussions on agricultural production and biodiversity. Rising temperatures expose more than 1 billion individuals to infectious diseases like Zika and dengue.

The vulnerability and limited resources in developing countries exacerbate the effects of extreme weather patterns on these nations. Increased floods, droughts and unpredictable weather patterns make it challenging for its citizens to maintain decent livelihoods.

Mitigating Poverty and Extreme Weather

Communities employ Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) as a comprehensive approach that involves managing ecosystems to bolster resilience and reduce vulnerability to fluctuating weather patterns. EbA encompasses the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of forests, grasslands, wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs to diminish the impacts of variable climatic conditions. It is often referred to as green infrastructure, contrasting with gray infrastructure, which entails concrete-based solutions.

In South Africa, a country grappling with floods, landslides and heavy rainfall due to the La Niña weather phenomenon, EbA has mitigated some of the adverse weather impacts. The municipality of eThekwini, which encompasses the city of Durban, has implemented the Transformative Riverine Management Programme to manage urban flood risks. This initiative involves collaboration between the government and non-governmental organizations. For example, the Aller River pilot project, managed by the Kloof Conservancy, an NGO focused on ecosystem protection and environmental awareness, is a pilot for the broader Take Back Our Rivers (TBOR) project. The TBOR project aims to restore the health of the 18 major river systems across the eThekwini Municipality. The Kloof Conservancy aims to assess how trained citizens can manage and monitor river ecosystems, creating a sustainable and climate-resilient municipality.

Significant progress has been made through the Aller River pilot project, including clearing alien vegetation and waste from the river stretch. The project has leveraged funding and co-funding for alien vegetation removal, with conservancy members contributing volunteer hours effectively. Improved communication and collaboration with municipal departments have resulted in rectifying problematic sewerage maintenance holes and enhanced water quality in certain parts of the Aller River. Community members living near the river have experienced improved livelihoods due to reduced odor from sewer spillage. The employment of Eco-Champs has enhanced local capacity for river health maintenance, waste reduction, monitoring and community awareness. Successful stakeholder mobilization campaigns have engaged diverse community groups and raised awareness about the river’s significance. The partnership between civil organizations and the municipality has facilitated effective awareness campaigns and cross-departmental collaboration in river monitoring.

Projects like the Aller River pilot project help communities in developing countries mitigate the impacts of extreme weather patterns by promoting climate-resilient infrastructure and adaptation capabilities, thus reducing vulnerability to climate shocks. Addressing global poverty necessitates tackling its root causes while simultaneously addressing the adverse effects of harsh weather patterns. By addressing poverty and extreme weather patterns, vulnerable communities can participate in sustainable economic activities, promote conservation efforts and gain improved access to clean energy.

Looking Ahead

Companies, foundations, organizations and institutions embrace climate-conscious strategies to combat poverty. The Rockefeller Foundation, for example, launched the International 100 Resilient Cities Programme (100RC) in 2013. The Rockefeller Foundation selected Durban as one of the first 32 cities in this program. Durban’s participation in this program led to the development of its Resilience Strategy, which initiated the TBOR project. This program reached more than 20% of the world’s urban population, with the Rockefeller Foundation actively giving more than $160 million to build urban resilience worldwide. The 100RC Network concluded in 2019, although the Rockefeller Foundation continues its efforts through the work of its Chief Resilience Officers, who actively train to lead their cities’ resilience strategies.

Understanding the interconnection between poverty and extreme weather patterns is crucial for fostering sustainable development, empowering local communities, mitigating the impacts of extreme weather patterns and alleviating global poverty. The disproportionate effects of harsh weather fluctuations on developing nations and their limited capacity to respond necessitate targeted assistance that addresses poverty and environmental concerns.

– Clara Swart
Photo: Flickr

Extreme Weather Conditions
Developing countries are set to receive $100 billion worth of funding from wealthy countries to combat extreme weather conditions. In 2009, wealthy countries pledged to commit $100 billion annually from 2020 onward to disadvantaged countries struggling with the impacts of changing weather patterns. However, only now, three years after the pledge, these countries are on track to fully meet this commitment. On May 2, 2023, more than 40 country representatives met in Berlin, Germany, to discuss effective ways to tackle harsh weather changes.

Severe Weather Changes

Currently, the change in weather patterns is affecting people worldwide, from dried-up lakes in California and rising sea levels in Venice to mega-droughts in Somalia and floods in South Sudan. Extreme weather conditions most harshly affect impoverished people due to their dependence on vulnerable sectors such as agriculture.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 65% of the labor force works in agriculture. Floods and droughts not only destroy their source of income but also their sources of food. Extreme weather events also increase the risk and transmission of diseases such as cholera and malaria, especially among impoverished populations with high exposure to these diseases and limited access to health care.

Furthermore, impoverished people struggle to recover from extreme weather events due to a lack of access to insurance and credit. A lack of education and lack of access to information also stand as barriers to achieving climatic resilience.

The Situation in Somalia and South Sudan

Recent reports show that Somalia’s last rainfall season (October to December 2022) consisted of below-average rainfall for the fifth consecutive year, depleting water sources in the country and increasing droughts. The country is one of the worst drought-affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2011, after three back-to-back seasons without sufficient rain, the country experienced a famine that led to the deaths of about 250,000 people, with children accounting for half of this number.

Due to continuing extreme weather conditions, in the first quarter of 2023, the World Food Programme (WFP) forecasted that 6.3 million Somalis will face crisis levels of food insecurity or worse and more than 320,000 people will face catastrophic levels of food insecurity (the highest insecurity level) out of Somalia’s 17.1 million population.

South Sudan is currently facing its worst humanitarian crisis since 2011. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that at least 7.7 million people are experiencing food insecurity due to the ongoing conflict in the nation coupled with severe weather conditions.

With the conflict putting people’s lives on hold and keeping them from conducting any type of work to get money and food, alongside the increase in temperatures making the land in South Sudan barren, there is a need for aid from foreign countries and organizations like the U.N. now more than ever.

The WFP Takes Action

In December 2022, the WFP served 4.7 million people in Somalia with life-saving assistance, which came in the form of cash-based aid or food supplies. The WFP also provided aid to nearly 352,000 vulnerable people facing the effects of droughts in the country under the expansion of the national safety net program, which aims to support the poorest and most vulnerable families.

In South Sudan, the WFP handed out more than 13,880 metric tonnes of food and $3.6 million worth of cash-based aid. In February 2023 alone, the WFP assisted 1.6 million people impacted by climate effects and the nation’s internal conflict.

The WFP South Sudan director Mary-Ellen McGroarty announced that the organization needs an additional $567 million to continue covering the most severe needs in South Sudan alone, excluding the effects of the current conflict.

The WFP funding for South Sudan goes to a number of great causes. For instance, in 2022, the organization built irrigation systems in rural towns and helped local farmers gain access to larger markets. WFP programs not only provide food and cash-based assistance but also teach people how to prepare for potential extreme weather patterns and establish resilience by creating climate-smart food systems.

The Way Forward

A European Union study on changing weather effects predicted that by 2050, increased temperatures and higher demand could leave as many as 150 million people in the world severely affected by water stress. The 2023 climate pledge reaching the designated amount of $100 billion is good news for organizations helping those in need in developing countries.

Funding is essential for tackling extreme weather conditions. Hence, the $100 billion provision from developed countries will help to advance resilience and sustainability goals and address the humanitarian issues that arise from changing weather patterns.

– Sam Kalantzis
Photo: Flickr