The UN Calls for Action Over Climate Change Crisis in Djibouti

The climate change crisis is currently ravaging millions of peoples’ livelihoods in the Horn of Africa leading to a rapid increase in demand for humanitarian needs and assistance. As a result, the intensity of cyclic droughts are becoming more severe, diminishing water resources and multiple climate-related shocks exacerbate displacement of a larger population into desolations with little or no access to water and food.

According to theUnited Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Djibouti, the most affected country in the region by the climate change, contains more than 280,000 people who do not have food in the country. In a recent visit to Djibouti by Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, called on the international community to take immediate action towards tackling the climate change issues, particularly in Djibouti and the entire Horn of Africa.

“Climate change is real, and I could see it here. I saw the widespread drought and I met communities that can barely access safe water. They explained to me how this situation is impacting their lives. Djibouti has had virtually no contribution to the global climate emergency, but its population is suffering the consequences daily,” said Ms. Mueller.

In two days visit to the country to assess the effects of climate change and the consequences for the humanitarian situation in the region, Ms. Mueller noted a devastating impacts of climate change that has contributed to a limited livelihoods opportunities leading to a higher level of poverty and unemployment, lack of water, poor hygiene conditions and increasing risk of disease outbreaks.

“Severe acute malnutrition rates are alarming and considered an emergency according to global standards. In Bondara village, women told me how they were doing whatever it takes to put food on the table for the family, but the frequent droughts are preventing them from doing so,” Ms. Mueller added.

According to the climate change profile for the Greater Horn of Africa published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands on April 2018, Djibouti is ranked 141 out of 181 countries globally which are vulnerable to climate change as well as 51st most vulnerable and 33rd least ready to cope with impact of climate change.

With the current increase in temperature and arid conditions experience in the region, UN reports indicate that only 0.01 per cent of the land arable with minimal annual rainfall, exposing more than 58% of the rural population to food insecurity while 23% live in abject poverty.

Due to its proximity to Gulf countries. Djibouti forms a transiting point of refugees and asylums seekers to the Gulf countries with 400 to 600 migrants crossing daily, fleeing the impact of conflict, instability and harsh climate in neighbouring countries such as Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and recently Yemen. Djibouti is also home to some 30,000 refugees and asylum-seekers and an estimated 100,000 migrants.

“It was heart-breaking to hear a 20-year-old young woman mentioning that her dream is to find a job as a maid in Saudi Arabia, and she is risking her life in search of a better opportunity,” She added.

An estimated 27 million people – or 24% of the total food insecure people in the world– lived in seven of the eight countries in the IGAD region, according to a new report released by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Food Security Information Network (FSIN).

Ambassador (Eng.) Mahboub Maalim, Intergovernmental Authority on Development Executive Secretary, acknowledged that climate change shocks are the main drivers of food insecurity in the Horn of Africa and call on the IGAD members to invest more on climate resilience and adaptation to climate change measures.

“The main drivers of acute food insecurity and malnutrition in our region are climate, conflict and economic instability. I call on IGAD specialized offices, Member States and partners to invest further in resilience, adaptation to climate change, conflict prevention and sustaining peace to overcome vulnerability and address the root causes of hunger and malnutrition” said Ambassador (Eng.) Mahboub Maalim, IGAD Executive Secretary.

The Deputy Humanitarian Chief affirmed the need for urgent action to address the underlying causes of vulnerabilities and get on a path to sustainable development in Djibouti and the region.

“But the Government needs further support to help communities build up resilience, to be self-sufficient so that the recurring shocks do not lead to further suffering and more costly crises.” She emphasized.