By Kate Foster
Barlin is a 30-year-old mother of seven. Due to the drought which continues to ravage most of Somalia, she was forced her to flee her home, and take refuge in the Barwaaqo 2 camp, Baidoa. Her story is one I hear all too often. It is all too common with the effects of climate change already felt in Somalia, and getting worse.
Today, Somalia is facing an existential crisis. Climate change is not threatening a single sector or region of the country, but the lives and livelihoods of its entire population. Somalia is not alone in this global challenge, but it is especially vulnerable to the devastating impacts of climate change.
Over the past year alone, the failed rains, severe floods and locust swarms, destroying crops and livelihoods, have affected over one million people. This is happening despite Somalia and the East African region bearing almost none of the historic responsibility for global emissions.
About half of the country’s population is in need of emergency assistance. In 2019, 12.3 million people were in need, compared to 15.7 million this year. The scarce and erratic Gu Rainfall has left many districts across several regions – including Gedo, lower Juba, Bay and Bakol – facing acute water shortages. While in Jowhar, tens of thousands were displaced by massive floods, with farmland destroyed, and homes, bridges and roads washed away.
We are seeing this across the world. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its latest report in August 2021. The report states that the consequences of the current global warming crisis are largely irreversible. As the planet warms, the science is telling us that extreme events like drought and floods will become even more common.
This means it is essential we act for people like Barlin and their families. By hosting COP26 next month, and through our work in Somalia, we are playing our part.
This is a partnership with all Somalis and the government. We congratulate Somalia on its National Action Plan for tackling climate change, submitted in August, which sets targets to limit emissions. It provides a clear plan for how Somalia will adapt to and mitigate climate change, and better manage water resources. This puts Somalia in a strong position to galvanise greater ambition from other countries at COP26. It also demonstrates what is possible to other highly vulnerable countries.
We are committed to supporting Somalia and Somalis to tackle this threat. The UK recently allocated an additional £4.5m from our International Climate Finance fund to mitigate against flooding in affected communities, and provide access to sustainable water in areas hit hard by perennial water shortages during dry seasons.
Along with other partners, we are helping the government use science-based approaches to understand areas that will be affected by flash flooding. Free access to web-based analysis and information tools, along with new natural solutions to the linked challenges of floods and droughts, will be made available by the end of 2021.
As the second largest humanitarian donor to Somalia, our programmes are also helping mitigate the effects of climate change. We are supporting infrastructure development, including the construction of boreholes, installation of water tanks, piping, solar panels, and the rehabilitation of shallow wells. We are helping over 200 communities across Somalia to become more resilient by supporting jobs, restoring water infrastructure, sending early warnings of climate extremes, and helping people to manage the environment sustainably.
With two weeks to go, at COP26 the UK is keeping the region’s climate needs front and centre. We want to see the needs of highly vulnerable – and conflict affected – countries like Somalia recognised and addressed. Part of the solution is finance; hitting the $100 billion of climate finance per year target for all developing countries is important. There is a substantial contribution too from the private sector.
This is the time for action, to help Barlin and the millions of others like her who need assistance. Join us in calling for greater action at COP26 in November to make a difference.
The author is the British Ambassador to Somalia