The negative impacts of climate change are already affecting the lives and livelihoods of many communities in all regions of the world. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are at the forefront of the climate emergency – helping communities prepare for, respond to and recover from climate-related disasters.
This report contains case studies from 11 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in these countries: Germany, Australia, Fiji, Honduras, Iraq, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Samoa, Tuvalu and Yemen. It highlights their role in preventing, adapting and responding to the negative impacts of climate-related travel. It complements other reports on human mobility and displacement in the context of disasters and climate change produced by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
These 11 case studies show that the climate crisis is already underway. Communities around the world are already experiencing the devastating humanitarian effects of climate-related displacement. These impacts are due to sea level rise, drought, extreme heat, floods and storms. It is also clear that the most vulnerable and marginalized are the hardest hit.
This is clearly illustrated by the Tuvalu Red Cross case study. People living in small, low-lying Pacific island states such as Tuvalu are often mentioned in discussions of the long-term impacts of climate change.
These countries could be rendered uninhabitable – or even entirely submerged – by the end of the century without a rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the decades to come. This underscores the urgency of stepping up mitigation efforts. However, the Tuvalu Red Cross case study illustrates the need to focus on the here and now as well – including the immediate drought conditions in the country.
In 2020, 30.7 million people were internally displaced by disasters, more than three times as many as conflicts and violence (9.8 million people). Of those displaced by disasters, 98 percent have experienced weather and climate hazards.1 Currently, the vast majority of people displaced by the impacts of climate change are internally displaced. their own country. Fewer people and communities cross borders due to the effects of climate change, but face a critical lack of legal protection. Since December 2020, Angolan citizens have started crossing the border with Namibia in search of food, water, healthcare and employment due to the drought in their country. At the request of the Namibian government, the Namibian Red Cross has provided Angolan citizens with food, shelter, blankets, mattresses, clothing and health care, regardless of their legal status.
In November 2020, Honduras was hit by two consecutive hurricanes – Eta and Iota – which caused massive displacement and extensive damage and destruction to crops and crops. Families already facing economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rampant poverty have seen their livelihoods compromised. Some 937,000 people in the country were newly displaced by disasters in 2020 and more than 3 million people are now food insecure. These negative impacts of climate change have contributed to the decision of the populations to leave their homes and join the “migrant caravans” heading towards the north of the continent, crossing countries like Guatemala and Mexico. In response to the ‘migrant caravan’ formed in January 2021, the Honduran Red Cross provided migrants with water, masks, health care, information on safety, security and COVID19 prevention measures , as well as a means of communication to stay in touch with family members – at key points in their migratory journey.
Many communities around the world are affected by simultaneous and consecutive disasters and displacement, leaving them little time to recover before the next disaster. In March 2019, Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique with devastating effects: some 1.5 million people were affected, 140,000 people displaced to evacuation centers or makeshift shelters and 230,000 houses damaged. Six weeks later, Cyclone Kenneth hit the country. Together, the two cyclones killed at least 648 people, injured nearly 1,700 people and damaged more than 270,000 homes and more than 4,200 classrooms. The Mozambique Red Cross has provided humanitarian assistance to internally displaced people and host communities.
Climate change exacerbates existing challenges and underlying vulnerabilities, forcing communities to face aggravating crises. Iraq is currently experiencing water shortages and drought; the effects of climate change collide with geopolitical tensions, the legacy of sanctions and conflicts, and chronic water mismanagement. Local communities are at risk of displacement due to worsening drought, as well as water and food insecurity. The Iraqi Red Crescent Society is providing food and cash assistance to approximately 36,000 people, as well as access to health care, water and sanitation for more than 40,000 people. In Yemen, the protracted armed conflict intensified in 2020, bringing the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to 4 million. The already dire humanitarian situation was further compounded in 2020 by extreme flooding, which devastated entire communities and fueled the spread of diseases, such as cholera, dengue, malaria and diphtheria. More than 300,000 people have been affected, most of them internally displaced people who had previously fled conflict areas, leading to secondary displacement. Yemen Red Crescent Society volunteers provided health and psychosocial support and distributed food, personal hygiene items, shelter kits and other essential items to those affected.
The climate crisis is already happening now in all regions of the world, including in high-income countries. For example, Australia was devastated by bushfires that threatened lives and livelihoods in 2019 and 2020. Thousands of people had to leave their homes in many parts of the country. The Australian Red Cross supported the evacuation of around 50,000 people and provided them with financial assistance. In Germany, a series of storms in the summer of 2021 caused rivers to overflow, destroying entire villages and killing 180 people. More than 30,000 people have been displaced. The German Red Cross provided support to affected communities, including clean water, food, shelter, electricity, mobile health care and psychological help.
These examples show that climate-related displacement can have devastating effects. In some contexts, however, the negative impacts of climate-related events can be avoided or mitigated through adaptation measures. Samoa, for example, is prone to tropical cyclones and has a long history of climate-related displacement. With around 70 percent of the country’s population and infrastructure located in low-lying coastal areas and projections of sea level rise, vulnerable families in coastal areas have decided to voluntarily settle in remote sites. inland. Using an inclusive and proactive approach, the Samoa Red Cross supports vulnerable families who have settled in these sites. Recognizing the importance of local ownership of humanitarian action, it involves family members in site preparation and promotes sustainable local adaptation, providing training in cleaning and maintaining recovery systems rainwater.
Legal preparedness is an important but often overlooked component of disaster risk management. After a disaster, time is critical. Laws can help solve the complex issues raised by climate-related travel. Legal preparedness is particularly important when a planned relocation is considered to reduce the risk of new displacement due to climate-related events, or as a durable solution to existing displacement. In Fiji, after Tropical Cyclone Winston devastated the country in 2016, the need to strengthen and update Fijian disaster law became evident. The government of Fiji has asked the Fijian Red Cross and the IFRC to help revise the existing disaster law. The Fiji National Disaster Management Office is now working on an integrated approach that also addresses displacement and planned relocation. Malawi is exposed to multiple climate-related hazards, such as floods, droughts, landslides and extreme heat. At the request of the government, the Malawi Red Cross supported the review of existing legislation on disaster risk management. A bill has been drafted, reflecting local problems, risks and needs and promoting the action of local communities in disaster response to better meet their needs in a timely manner.
The case studies included in this report make it clear that local communities and local organizations must be at the center of the fight against climate-related displacement. Governments and donors must ensure that funding for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction is directed to countries and communities with the highest risk and the lowest capacity. Immediate and substantial investments are needed to enable communities to anticipate and adapt to the negative impacts of climate change, and to reduce the risks of climate-related displacement.