UN ‘Alarmed’ As Somalia Fighting Displaces 100,000

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019, the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. The UN voiced alarm July 19, 2021, at reports that several governments used Israeli phone malware to spy on activists, journalists and others, stressing the urgent need for better regulation of surveillance technology.
Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

The UN warned Tuesday of severe humanitarian problems in central Somalia after 100,000 people were displaced by fighting between pro-government forces and Sufi militants.

Fighters loyal to Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ) occupied the strategic town of Guricel earlier this month, before being driven out last week by national forces and paramilitaries in operations that killed at least a dozen people, including civilians.

“We are concerned, even alarmed, by the ongoing fighting in Guricel which is now continuing for the past few days,” the UN Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan, told a press briefing.

“First and foremost, we are concerned by its humanitarian consequences, which have been severe. Reports are still initial but they signal nearly 20,000 families displaced, representing some 100,000 people.”

He also warned of “very troubling reports of damage to hospitals and civil society facilities as a consequence of the fighting,” adding that such attacks amounted to a violation of international humanitarian law.

The UN earlier said that many of those fleeing the violence had sought shelter in villages that are already grappling with drought and water shortages.

Guricel is the second-largest town in the Galmudug region, which has witnessed a long-armed struggle by the Sufi militia.

The ASWJ has controlled many of the major cities in Galmudug over the past decade, and efforts to broker a military and political settlement to their feud with regional authorities have not succeeded.

The Sufi group’s recent military advances in Galmudug coincide with upper house elections in the region, which is the last of Somalia’s five federal member states to complete the long-overdue process.

The Horn of Africa nation has been struggling to hold elections and fend off a long-running Islamist insurgency, with al-Shabaab militants regularly carrying out attacks across the country.

Swan said the violence in Galmudug was “a distraction from other critical priorities, namely the completion of the electoral process and the continuation of the fight against al-Shabaab.”

Elections in Somalia follow a complex indirect model, whereby state legislatures and clan delegates pick lawmakers for the upper and lower houses of parliament, who in turn choose the president.

The presidential election is nearly a year overdue, with the process dogged by political infighting at the highest level of government, and feuds between Mogadishu and some states.

Greenhouse Gas Levels Reach New Record High, Says UN

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere reached record levels last year, the United Nations said Monday in a stark warning ahead of the COP26 summit about worsening global warming.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization said that continued rising greenhouse gas emissions would result in more extreme weather and wide-ranging impacts on the environment, the economy and humanity.

The WMO said the economic slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic triggered a temporary decline in new emissions, but had no discernible impact on the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases and their growth rates.

The organisation’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin said the annual rate of increase last year was above the yearly average between 2011 and 2020 — and the trend continued in 2021.

The WMO said that as long as emissions continue, global temperatures will continue to rise.

And given the long life of carbon dioxide (CO2), the temperature level already observed will persist for several decades even if emissions are rapidly reduced to net zero.

The UN Climate Change Conference COP26 is being held in the Scottish city Glasgow from October 31 to November 12.

“The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin contains a stark, scientific message for climate change negotiators at COP26,” said WMO chief Petteri Taalas.

“At the current rate of increase in greenhouse gas concentrations, we will see a temperature increase by the end of this century far in excess of the Paris Agreement targets of 1.5 to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“We are way off track.”

Taalas said that if the world kept using fossil fuels in an unlimited way, the planet could be about 4C warmer by 2100 — but limiting warming to 1.5 C was still possible through mitigation efforts.

– ‘No time to lose’ –

The WMO said that with continued rising greenhouse gas emissions, alongside rising temperatures, the planet could also expect more extreme weather.

That includes intense heat and rainfall, ice melt, sea-level rise and ocean acidification — all of which will have far-reaching impacts on people across the world.

“We need to transform our commitment into action that will have an impact on the gases that drive climate change,” said Taalas.

“We need to revisit our industrial, energy and transport systems and whole way of life. The needed changes are economically affordable and technically possible. There is no time to lose.”

The WMO also revealed that the southeast part of the Amazon rainforest, long a carbon sink, has now become a source of carbon emissions.

“This is alarming and this is related to deforestation,” Taalas said.

Euan Nisbet, from the University of London’s Greenhouse Gas Group, compared the greenhouse gas measurements to “skidding into a car crash”.

“The disaster gets closer and closer but you can’t stop it. You can clearly see the crash ahead, and all you can do is howl.”

Dave Reay, director of the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute, said the report provided a “brutally frank” assessment of COP achievements so far: “an epic fail”.

– CO2 record –

The three major greenhouses gases are CO2, methane and nitrous oxide. CO2 is the most important, accounting for around 66 percent of the warming effect on the climate.

CO2 concentrations reached 413.2 parts per million (ppm) in 2020, up 2.5 ppm, and is at 149 percent of the pre-industrial level in 1750, the WMO said.

The report said that roughly half of the CO2 emitted by human activity remains in the atmosphere, with the other half ending up in the oceans and the land.

“The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was three-five million years ago,” Taalas said, adding “but there weren’t 7.8 billion people then”.

Methane averages reached a new high of 1,889 parts per billion in 2020, up 11 ppb on the year before, and is at 262 percent of the pre-industrial benchmark.

Nitrous oxide averages reached 333.2 ppb, up 1.2 ppb, and is now at 123 percent of 1750 levels.

UN Launches Cash Plan To Support Afghan Economy

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

The United Nations on Wednesday launched a funding programme aimed at preventing the Afghan economy from collapsing during the winter by getting cash flowing through the local economy again.

The UN Development Programme has set up a trust fund through which governments can channel finance via the UN to specific programmes on the ground, rather than sending money government-to-government, with Afghanistan now controlled by the Taliban.

“What we are witnessing is not only a nation and a country in the midst of political turmoil; what we are also witnessing is an economic implosion,” UNDP chief Achim Steiner told a news conference in Geneva.

Since the Taliban takeover in August, banks are running out of cash and civil servants are going unpaid.

Afghanistan’s economy is in a parlous state with most aid cut off, food prices rising and unemployment spiking.

The UNDP fears that on the current trajectory, 97 percent of Afghan households could be below the poverty line by early- to mid-2022.

The money will be channelled through three different routes: cash for public works programmes; small grants to keep small businesses running and get start-ups off the ground; and temporary basic income for the elderly and vulnerable.

The plan is to try to bridge the gap between the current situation and 12 months’ time, when there should be a clearer perspective on Afghanistan’s longer-term future.

Steiner said the planned programmes had been discussed with the Taliban.

– ‘Desperation, destitution, displacement’ –

It is hoped that by keeping the local economy afloat, Afghans can keep living and working in their local areas rather than falling into “desperation, destitution and displacement” and ultimately leaving for somewhere else, said Steiner.

The UN agency gave the example of small-scale interventions to keep markets functioning, by funding micro-enterprises such as raising chickens to sell eggs, rather than people queueing to receive food handouts.

The activities that the UNDP wants to cover have been costed at around $667 million for the first 12 months, reaching about 4.5 million people, with an aim then to double the project if it can double the side of the fund.

The scheme has little seed funding but Germany it set to be among the first contributors, putting in 50 million euros ($58 million).

The support would be provided in Afghan currency rather than dollarising the economy.

Steiner said the greatest challenge was an economy with virtually no domestic currency in circulation.

“Our intent is to find ways very quickly in which we can convert international support into local currency,” he said.

“This is how you keep an economy alive and stop people becoming dependent on donations.”

UN Security Council To Demand Civilian Power In Mali

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. The UN voiced alarm July 19, 2021. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

Members of the UN Security Council will travel to the Sahel this weekend to push Mali to return to civilian power after two military coups in nine months in a region plagued by jihadist violence.

“The Sahel region is exposed to all kinds of challenges,” Niger’s ambassador to the United Nations Abdou Abarry told AFP.

“This is where the stakes are in the fight against terrorism, humanitarian issues, the impact of climate change and good governance,” said Abarry.

“The situation in the Sahel remains very fragile”, said French ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Riviere, who is leading the trip to Mali together with Abarry.

Riviere spoke of the need to stabilize Mali and “discuss how to support the efforts of the G5 Sahel countries to ensure their security”.

In Mali, thousands of people have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced, while swathes of the country have little or no state presence in the face of a jihadist insurgency.

For the 15 members of the Security Council, traveling to a country ruled by a military junta is not tantamount to endorsing its two recent coups d’etat, several Western and African diplomats told AFP.

The UN Security Council is heading to the region to support regional organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States and “insist on respecting electoral deadlines and, if this is not possible, at least have a realistic timetable,” one of the diplomats told AFP.

North-East: Half A Million People At Risk Of Starvation – UN

Modola, Aisha, 25, feeds her baby boy Sadiki, 1 with Plumpy'Nut, a peanut-based paste for treatment of severe acute malnutrition, in an IDP camp in Bama, Borno state. Photo: WFP/Siegfried-
Aisha, 25, feeds her baby boy Sadiki, 1 with Plumpy’Nut, a peanut-based paste for treatment of severe acute malnutrition, in an IDP camp in Bama, Borno state. Photo: WFP/Siegfried-Modola.

 

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that half a million women, men and children in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states are at risk of starvation as its funding for the region dries up.

In a statement released on Friday, the global agency says it may soon be forced to cut food rations except it secures urgent funding to continue its life-saving operations in the crisis hotspot.

The region has been a mainstay of insurgency attacks for over a decade and the situation has been worsened by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising high food prices, the WFP said.

The UN agency also said the number of internally-displaced persons surpassed two million in September.

READ ALSO: UN Slams ‘Horrific’ Violence Against Migrants In Libya

“Cutting rations means choosing who gets to eat and who goes to bed hungry. We are seeing funding for our life-saving humanitarian work dry up just at the time when hunger is at its most severe,” said Chris Nikoi, WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa following a recent visit to Nigeria.

The WFP, which won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2020, said it required at least $55 million in a matter of weeks to avoid cutting food aid.

“Our food assistance is a lifeline for millions whose lives have been upended by conflict and have almost nothing to survive on. We must act now to save lives and avoid disruptions to this lifeline,” Nikoi added.

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said cutting food assistance “will be a painful decision for humanitarians as it will negatively affect children, women and men uprooted from their homes due to continued violence.

“As we call upon our partners to step up their support in response to the growing needs, I would like to say thank you to those who have stood with us over the years in providing the much-needed humanitarian assistance in the country.”

According to its Friday statement, the WFP said it has “provided life-saving food and nutrition assistance to severely food insecure people, displaced families in camps, and to vulnerable people living in host communities thanks to generous contributions from Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, the United States of America, and private donors.

“This year, relying on the continued generosity of donor partners, WFP ramped up its response to address rising food insecurity and the impact of COVID-19, targeting 1.9 million displaced people in Nigeria with life-saving food assistance.

“To sustain humanitarian operations in northeast Nigeria until March 2022, WFP urgently requires USD 197 million.”

UN Slams ‘Horrific’ Violence Against Migrants In Libya

African migrants gather at a makeshift shelter in the capital Tripoli's suburb of Ain Zara, on October 11, 2021. Mahmud Turkia / AFP
African migrants gather at a makeshift shelter in the capital Tripoli’s suburb of Ain Zara, on October 11, 2021. Mahmud Turkia / AFP

 

The United Nations on Tuesday denounced violence against migrants in Libya after security forces shot dead at least half a dozen asylum seekers in recent days.

Libyan authorities have denied the shooting at an overcrowded detention facility in Tripoli following mass arrests targeting migrants.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration said six people were killed and at least 24 injured.

READ ALSO: Burkina Starts Trial Of Alleged Killers Of Sankara

On Tuesday the UN Refugee Agency said it was “extremely worried about the continued suffering of migrants and asylum seekers in Libya”.

UNHCR spokeswoman Marta Hurtado said many migrants were experiencing “a myriad of daily violations and abuses at the hands of both state and non-state actors.

“This series of horrific events over a period of eight days is just the latest example of the precarious, sometimes lethal, situation facing migrants and asylum seekers in Libya,” she said.

The killings came a week after sweeping raids in Tripoli, mostly targeting irregular migrants, left at least one person dead and 15 wounded, with thousands more detained, according to the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

Hurtado condemned what she termed “a perceptible increase in heavy-handed security operations and raids targeting migrants and asylum seekers” held in atrocious conditions.

She added that Libyan authorities had an obligation to protect everyone on their territory, including migrants and asylum seekers, and urged “impartial and independent investigations” into the use of force against them.

Libya is a key departure point for tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, hoping to reach Europe.

Human traffickers have profited from Libya’s decade of chaos following the 2011 revolution, carving out a lucrative but brutal trade.

Official centres for migrants detained in war-battered Libya are riddled with corruption and violence, including sexual assault, according to the UN and rights groups.

AFP

Nearly 19,000 Children Crossed Dangerous Darien Gap In 2021, Says UN

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

A record of almost 19,000 children have crossed the dangerous Darien Gap jungle between Colombia and Panama this year en route to the United States, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said Monday.

That figure is “nearly three times more than the number registered over the five previous years combined,” said UNICEF.

The report said almost 20 percent of the migrants crossing the jungle are children, and half of those are below the age of five.

The Darien Gap is one of the main routes for migrants heading from South America to the United States, but the jungle has been overrun by armed groups such as drug and people traffickers.

“The number of migrant children who cross the Darien Gap on foot has hit an all-time high,” said UNICEF, adding that the jungle “is one of the most dangerous places for migrants attempting to reach North America.”

“In this dense tropical forest, migrant families with children are particularly exposed to violence, including sexual abuse, trafficking and extortion from criminal gangs.

“Children who cross the Darien Gap are also at risk of getting diarrhea, respiratory diseases, dehydration and other ailments that require immediate attention.”

Wild animals, insects and a lack of safe drinking water exacerbate the problems of trying to cross the jungle.

At least five children have been found dead in the jungle in 2021, while more than 150, including newborn babies, have arrived in Panama without their parents, a near 20-time increase over 2020.

“Each child crossing the Darien Gap on foot is a survivor,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Never before have our teams on the ground seen so many young children crossing the Darien Gap — often unaccompanied.”

He said the issue needs to be treated as a region-wide humanitarian crisis.

So far in 2021, more than 91,000 migrants have crossed the 575,000 hectares (1.4 million acres) of virgin jungle, according to Panama’s migration authorities.

The majority of migrants tackling this treacherous journey are Haitians and Cubans, but some come from as far afield as Africa or Asia.

AFP

Over 600,000 Affected By Heavy Flooding In South Sudan, Says UN

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019, the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. The UN voiced alarm July 19, 2021, at reports that several governments used Israeli phone malware to spy on activists, journalists and others, stressing the urgent need for better regulation of surveillance technology.
Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

Severe flooding since August has affected at least 623,000 people in South Sudan, forcing many to flee their homes with the situation further exacerbated by ongoing violence, the UN’s emergency-response agency said Thursday.

Torrential rains have caused rivers to overflow, deluging homes and farms in eight of South Sudan’s ten states, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a briefing note.

Emergency workers are using canoes and boats to reach cut-off populations, with over two-thirds of the affected areas now facing the risk of hunger as food prices shoot up, recording a 15-percent jump since August, the agency said.

“Schools, homes, health facilities and water sources were inundated, impacting people’s access to basic services.”

Some families have been able to flee to the capital Juba, while others have set up makeshift camps along highways, grabbing what few possessions they could from the ruins of their flimsy thatched huts.

In some parts of the country, violence between rival communities has forced tens of thousands of people to leave their homes while also complicating emergency workers’ efforts to help flood-battered communities.

UN teams have struggled to get aid to Warrap, a northwestern state plagued by ethnic violence, which is now battling a measles outbreak.

Meanwhile, around 80,000 people have been uprooted from their homes in Western Equatoria state in the country’s southwest as a result of the fighting which erupted in June, OCHA said, with some fleeing to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The agency last month warned of limited supplies and a funding shortfall, saying that it had only received 54 percent of the $1.7 billion (1.4 billion euros) required to pay for programmes in the country.

Funding shortages have also forced the UN World Food Programme to suspend food aid to over 100,000 displaced people in South Sudan, the agency said last month, warning of further reductions unless it received more cash.

Four out of five of South Sudan’s 11 million people live in “absolute poverty”, according to the World Bank in 2018, while more than 60 percent of its population suffers from severe hunger from the combined effects of conflict, drought and floods.

Since achieving independence from Sudan in 2011, the young nation has been in the throes of a chronic economic and political crisis, and is struggling to recover from the aftermath of a five-year civil war that left nearly 400,000 people dead.

Although a 2018 ceasefire and power-sharing deal between President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar still largely holds, it is being sorely tested, with little progress made in fulfilling the terms of the peace process.

AFP

Libya Raid Against Migrants Kills One, Wounds 15, Says UN

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Ludovic MARIN / AFPunited nations

 

Sweeping raids in Libya targeting mostly irregular migrants left at least one person dead, 15 wounded and 4,000 in detention, the UN said, stressing that authorities must respect human rights.

Libyan authorities had labelled as an anti-drug operation the raids on houses and makeshift shelters in Gargaresh, a poor suburb of the capital Tripoli, on Friday and Saturday.

The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said Libyan security forces had opened fire during the raids and that “one migrant was killed and at least 15 others injured, six seriously”.

“Unarmed migrants were harassed in their homes, beaten and shot,” it said in a statement late Saturday, adding that six migrants had reportedly sustained gunshot wounds.

The North African country, in chaos since its 2011 revolution, is one of the main departure points for tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, hoping to reach Europe.

Official centres for migrants detained in war-battered Libya are riddled with corruption and violence, including sexual assault, according to the United Nations and rights groups.

The UN mission said that, while the state must maintain law and order, it also urged it to respect “the human rights and dignity of all people, including migrants and asylum-seekers”.

Citing officials of Libya’s Directorate of Combatting Illegal Migration, it said that “at least 4,000 people, including women and children, have been arrested” — vastly more than the several hundred initially reported — and that most of those “are now being arbitrarily detained”.

The UN mission recalled that it had “repeatedly condemned the inhumane conditions in Libya’s detention centres, where migrants and refugees are held in overcrowded facilities with restricted access to vital humanitarian assistance”.

AFP

UN Concerned About ‘Xenophobia’ Against Migrants In Chile

File Photo: Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

The United Nations expressed concern Monday at “violence and xenophobia” meted out to undocumented migrants in Chile over the weekend by locals fed up with their presence in the country.

Some 3,000 protesters took to the streets of the northern port city of Iquique on Saturday, some burning the belongings of rough-sleeping migrants who had been occupying a public square for months.

In a tweet, the UN mission in Chile urged the “authorities and the population to act within the framework of respect for human rights and international humanitarian rights.”

The world body expressed its willingness to provide technical assistance and to “collaborate in the efforts of national and local authorities.”

The Iquique protesters waved Chilean flags and chanted slogans against the migrants, mainly Venezuelans fleeing dire economic conditions in their country by crossing the Andes mountains and Atacama desert.

Eduardo Stein, the UN Refugee Agency and UN Migration Agency’s representative for Venezuelan migrants, expressed his “sadness and dismay” at what he described as acts of “hate, intolerance and xenophobia.”

Chile’s Interior Minister Rodrigo Delgado also denounced the protest but insisted “we will continue with evictions of all public spaces” as well as “the plan of expulsion” of undocumented migrants.

The demonstration took place a day after police evacuated a migrant camp that had existed for a year on the town square. Most of the migrants, poor and undocumented, are surviving on odd jobs and sleeping in tents.

Chile is Latin America’s wealthiest country per capita.

Venezuela, meanwhile, is in an unprecedented economic and political crisis that has led millions of people to leave their country, rich in oil resources but mismanaged and rife with dysfunction.

Venezuela’s national currency, the bolivar, has lost 73 percent of its value to the dollar so far this year. Inflation is about 3,000 percent.

According to the Jesuit Migrant Service, 23,673 undocumented people entered Chile, a country of 19 million, from January to July — almost 7,000 more than in the whole of 2020.

AFP

426,000 Affected By Flooding In South Sudan, Says UN

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019, the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall.  Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

Heavy flooding has affected and displaced about 426,000 people in South Sudan, including 185,000 children, as overflowing rivers deluged homes and farms in the impoverished country, the UN’s emergency-response agency said on Tuesday.

Emergency workers have used canoes and boats to reach people cut off by the deluge, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a briefing note, warning that more heavy rains and flooding were expected in the coming months.

The downpours “have exacerbated the vulnerability of communities, with many people displaced by the floods seeking refuge in churches and schools”, the agency said.

In Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, which is home to about a third of the flood-hit population, desperate farmers begged for help, as rising waters triggered by early seasonal rainfall submerged their houses and their land.

“Even the animals are being affected. All the places we use to graze them in are all flooded with water,” farmer Gatjiath Pal told AFP.

“Everywhere is water… and we don’t know when this will end because it is raining every day here,” he said.

Other villagers said they were frightened of being bitten by snakes as the deluge prompts the reptiles to seek shelter inside buildings.

“Life here is so miserable,” Nyadak Chuol, a mother of three, told AFP.

“The roads are getting blocked… water has come up to our houses. We are struggling every day now to find safe places to stay,” the 33-year-old said.

READ ALSO: ‘Failed’ Coup Attempt Reported In Sudan

“The worst thing is that… wild and dangerous animals like snakes are moving closer to us,” she added.

The heavy downpours have destroyed flimsy thatched huts and killed livestock, a year after record floods affected about 700,000 people.

Around 100,000 of those displaced in last year’s disaster have still not returned home, the UN agency said.

In addition to health facilities being damaged or destroyed by the floods, 113 schools have also been affected, putting children’s education at risk, it warned.

Meanwhile rescue teams are struggling to get aid to some 25,000 people in Warrap, a northwest state plagued by deadly conflict between rival ethnic groups.

Aid Cuts

OCHA last month warned of limited supplies and a funding shortfall, saying that it had only received 54 percent of the $1.7 billion (1.4 billion euros) required to pay for programmes in the country.

Funding shortages have also forced the UN World Food Programme to suspend food aid to over 100,000 displaced people in South Sudan, the agency said earlier this month, warning of further reductions unless it received more cash.

Four out of five of South Sudan’s 11 million people live in “absolute poverty”, according to the World Bank in 2018, while more than 60 percent of its population suffers from severe hunger from the combined effects of conflict, drought and floods.

Since achieving independence from Sudan in 2011, the young nation has been in the throes of a chronic economic and political crisis, and is struggling to recover from the aftermath of a five-year civil war that left nearly 400,000 people dead.

Although a 2018 ceasefire and power-sharing deal between President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar still largely holds, it is being sorely tested, with little progress made in fulfilling the terms of the peace process.

AFP

Climate Disasters Surge Fivefold In 50 Years, Says UN

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

The United Nations warned Wednesday that weather-related disasters have skyrocketed over the past half-century, causing far more damage even as better warning systems have meant fewer deaths.

A report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) examined mortality and economic losses from weather, climate and water extremes between 1970 and 2019.

It found that such disasters have increased fivefold during that period, driven largely by a warming planet, and warned the upward trend would continue.

“The number of weather, climate and water extremes are increasing and will become more frequent and severe in many parts of the world as a result of climate change,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

In total, there were more than 11,000 of disasters attributed to these hazards globally since 1970, causing more than two million deaths and some $3.64 trillion in losses.

– 115 deaths each day –

On average, a disaster linked to weather, climate and water extremes has thus occurred every single day over the past 50 years, killing 115 people and causing $202 million in daily losses, WMO found.

More than 91 percent of the deaths occurred in developing countries, it said.

Droughts were responsible for the largest losses of human life during the period, alone accounting for some 650,000 deaths, while storms have left over 577,000 people dead.

Floods have meanwhile killed nearly 59,000 over the past 50 years and extreme temperatures have killed close to 56,000, the report found.

On a positive note, the report found that even as the number of weather and climate-related disasters ballooned over the past half-century, the number of associated deaths declined nearly threefold.

The toll fell from over 50,000 deaths each year in the 1970s to fewer than 20,000 in the 2010s, WMO said.

And while the 1970s and 1980 reported an average of 170 related deaths per day, the daily average in the 1990s fell to 90, and then to 40 in the 2010s.

Taalas said dramatic improvements in early warning systems were largely to thank for the drop in deaths.

“Quite simply, we are better than ever before at saving lives,” he said.

– More people exposed –

WMO stressed though that much remains to be done, with only half of the agency’s 193 member states currently housing the life-saving multi-hazard early warning systems.

It also cautioned that severe gaps remained in weather and hydrological observing networks in Africa and parts of Latin America and in Pacific and Caribbean island states.

Mami Mizutori, who heads the UN office for disaster risk reduction, also hailed the life-saving impact of the improved early warning systems.

But she warned in the statement that “the number of people exposed to disaster risk is increasing due to population growth in hazard-exposed areas and the growing intensity and frequency of weather events.”

And while early warning systems save lives, they have done little to shield disaster-prone areas from swelling economic damage.

In fact, the reported losses from 2010 to 2019 stood at $383 million per day — seven times more than the some $49 million in average daily losses in the 1970s.

Seven of the costliest 10 disasters in the past 50 years have happened since 2005, with three of them in 2017 alone: Hurricane Harvey, which caused nearly $97 billion in damages, followed by Maria at close to $70 billion and Irma at almost $60 billion.

AFP