UN chief: Window to avert devasting climate impacts ‘rapidly closing’

No region is immune to climate disasters the UN chief told the Security Council on Thursday, warning that “our window of opportunity” to prevent the worst climate impacts is “rapidly closing”.

Drawing attention to the “deeply alarming” report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last month, Secretary-General António Guterres spelled out that “much bolder climate action is needed” to maintain international peace and security.

He urged the G20 industrialized nations to step up and drive action before the UN Climate Conference (COP26) in early November.

Against the backdrop of wildfires, flooding, droughts and other extreme weather events, the UN chief said that “no region is immune”.

And he pointed out that the climate crisis is “particularly profound” with compounded by fragility and conflict.

Describing climate change and environmental mismanagement as “risk multipliers”, he explained that last year, climate-related disasters displaced more than 30 million people and that 90 per cent of refugees come from countries least able to adapt to the climate crisis.

Many of these refugees are hosted by States also suffering the impacts of climate change, “compounding the challenge for host communities and national budgets”, Mr. Guterres told ambassadors, adding that the COVID pandemic is also undermining governments’ ability to respond to climate disasters and build resilience.

Maintaining that “it is not too late to act”, the top UN official highlighted three “absolute priorities”, beginning with capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

To avert catastrophic climate impacts, he urged all Member States to up their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – plans through which countries commit to increasingly ambitious climate action – before COP26 and to translate those commitments into “concrete and immediate action”.

“Collectively, we need a 45 per cent cut in global emissions by 2030”, he said.

To address the dire impacts of climate disruption, Mr. Guterres stressed the need for adaptation and resilience, which he maintained requires committing at least half of global climate finance to build resilience and support adaptation.

“We simply cannot achieve our shared climate goals – nor achieve hope for lasting peace and security – if resilience and adaptation continue to be the forgotten half of the climate equation”, he said.

Climate change hitting Sierra Leone

Flash flooding has again hit the capital of Sierra Leone after torrential rains on Friday.

The capital Freetown and environs was flooded with torrential rain on Friday causing enormous damages to properties and fatalities.According to USAID, Sierra Leone faces multiple risks from climate change that threaten key economic sectors and increase the potential for wider environmental degradation.At least six people were reported dead though some residents say it will take time for the right casualty to be known.

“The latest casualty report is based on the people reported missing during the flooding. We are yet to know the report of those who might have loss their lives through injuries caused by the flooding ” said Joseph Mansaray, a resident of Kroobay Wharf.Sierra Leone is the third most at risk countries in the world to climate change after Bangladesh and Guinea Bissau.

According to the science of climate change, the impacts are likely to continue to affect Sierra Leone in the future, despite the country being least responsible for the problem since Sierra Leone’s contribution to global emissions of greenhouse gases is negligible.

On 14 August 2017, a mudslide killed more than 1,000 people in the mountain town of Regent on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown.

IOM Allocates USD 75,000 to Aid Victims of Lao Dam Disaster


Sanamxay villagers sought safety on the roofs of their houses to escape the flooding following the July 23 dam collapse. Photo: CNN.

As rescue operations continue in villages flooded by the collapse on Monday (23/7) of the vast Saddle Dam D, part of the Xepien – Xenamnoy hydropower project in south-eastern Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s Attapeu province, IOM has allocated USD 75,000 to kickstart its emergency relief operations in the area.

According to the Lao authorities, the disaster was triggered by heavy rains across the region brought by Tropical Storm Son-Tinh. The storm affected an estimated 16,256 people in 11 provinces across the country.

The damage caused by the dam breach was particularly severe in 13 villages in Sanamxay district, which affected an estimated 6,351 people. Some 3,060 people are now displaced and staying in temporary emergency shelters. Twenty-six deaths have been recorded and 131 people are still missing.

The water from the flash flooding is now reportedly receding, but weather forecasters warn of more heavy rain today through Monday. Washed out roads and the destruction of 14 bridges in the area are also making road access to the remote area very difficult, while shallow water in flooded areas is also hampering access by boat.

IOM, which between 2016-2018 managed a malaria control project in the area, which borders Viet Nam and Cambodia, is working with UN partners and the Lao authorities to identify most urgent needs. According to an initial government assessment, these include food, drinking water, personal hygiene kits, mobile toilets, clothing, tents and housing repair kits. Boats to access the worst hit areas are also needed.

IOM has deployed technical experts from its regional Asia-Pacific office in Bangkok to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic specializing in displacement management, migration health, camp coordination and camp management, emergency assessment, displacement tracking and logistics support.

The initial USD 75,000 of IOM funding will go towards areas of greatest need identified by the government and UN partners. They will likely include provision of shelter materials, tarpaulins and plastic sheets; non-food items including clothing, blankets, buckets, jerry cans, kitchen sets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and tools; and medicines.

The emergency response is organized by sector or “Cluster”. IOM is co-leading the Shelter Cluster with UN Habitat and the Ministry of Public Works and Housing. It is also part of the Health and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Clusters, which are led by WHO and UNICEF respectively.

Malaria is endemic in the affected area, but IOM Regional Health Specialist Dr. Patrick Duigan says that displaced families may be at greater risk of waterborne diseases in the aftermath of disaster. “Floods often wash away mosquitos and larvae, which reduces the risk of malaria for the first eight weeks or so. Then, as the area dries out, the risk of malaria will return,” he said.

“IOM is now putting our global expertise in emergency response at the disposal of the government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic – our newest member state – to help it to cope with the aftermath of this major disaster. But we are also committed to helping these people in the longer term to restart their lives and are reaching out to international donors,” said IOM Lao PDR Head of Office Misato Yuasa.

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, began operations in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in 2002, and in June 2018 the country joined IOM as its 171st member state.

More than half a million Somalis affected by floods and heavy rainfall

Flash and river floods, caused by heavy rainfall, in  have affected more than 695 000 people, and displaced nearly 215 000 of these, in the last few days.

Most flooding occurred in the regions of Bakool, Banadir, Bay, Hiraan, Lower Juba, Middle Juba and Middle Shabelle. One of the worst-hit areas includes Belet Weyne, Hiraan, in the Hirshabelle State, where more than 120 000 people — some of whom have already been displaced from their original homes — were forced to flee riverine villages after the Shabelle River burst its banks, destroying houses and crops.

As part of an immediate response, WHO, in close collaboration with the Federal Government’s Ministry of Health, airlifted and prepositioned 30.1 tonnes of emergency medical supplies to Belet Weyne, Baidoa and Kismayo to treat illnesses commonly spread during emergencies. These provisions include basic, essential, medical drugs, oral rehydration supplies (ORS), water-testing kits and cholera treatment supplies. Similar medical supplies will soon be sent to the South West and Jubaland States.

However, WHO estimates an additional US$ 2 million will be required to purchase and distribute emergency supplies to other flood-affected areas. These resources would also fund staff needed to deliver services; monitoring and response to disease outbreaks; and the coordination of all these efforts.

“Once heavy rains pour into the river basins of Ethiopia and Somalia, this spells danger for communities living along the Shabelle and Jubba rivers. The flooding has taken a toll on people living in Gedo, Hiraan, Lower Shabelle, Lower Jubba and Middle Shabelle,” said HE Excellency Dr Fawziya Abikar, Minister of Health, Federal Government of Somalia.

At the onset of the floods, His Excellency Hassan Ali Khayre, Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Somalia, briefed international development and humanitarian partners on the heavy flooding and its impact, and requested for emergency assistance to the flood-affected population.

However, the needs are outrunning the support available. “Urgent action is needed to respond to this emergency,” warned Dr Ghulam Popal, WHO Representative for Somalia. “A well-coordinated response by authorities, and local and international organizations averted a cholera epidemic last year. We need a similar response again, now, to save livelihoods and prevent the spread of diseases among an already vulnerable society.”

The Somali Health Cluster, a group of international and national agencies working jointly to improve health in the country, also called for national and regional partners to convene coordination meetings to discuss ongoing response activities and gaps, as well as to scale up the provision of lifesaving health and nutrition services to the people in need.

Flooding can trigger the transmission of water-borne and vector-borne diseases, such as cholera, malaria and dengue fever, and contaminate water sources. To respond to and manage any resulting disease outbreaks in a timely manner, health authorities and WHO have alerted the Early Warning System in Somalia and WHO’s communicable disease surveillance officers to look out for the emergence of any waterborne or vector-borne diseases. Senior Ministry of Health and WHO officials have conducted joint missions to Belet Weyne and Baidoa to meet state and local health authorities, and gather crucial information on the situation.

Urgent needs of the afflicted communities include shelter, food, health, nutritional supplies, access to water and sanitation, latrines, mosquito nets and tents.

Short-term forecasts made by the UN Food and Agriculture-managed Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) suggest river levels inside Somalia are expected to continue rising in the coming days with more cases of flooding along the Juba and Shabelle rivers.

Somalis have suffered from natural calamities and civil strife over the years and endured drought, disease outbreaks, and insecurity among other challenges. This has resulted in malnutrition, poor access to health, and prevalent poverty all across the country.

The story published courtesy of the WHO

As hundreds more still missing, 1,100 households directly affected by flooding in Sierra Leone

More than 300 people have died with hundreds more still missing following severe mudslides and floods in Sierra Leone’s capital, according to the Office of National Security (ONS). Two districts have been affected: Freetown (eastern and western outskirts) and Bo district.

Inter-agency rapid assessments conducted by five different teams including IOM, the UN Migration Agency, in 16 communities on Tuesday (15/08) are indicating that around 1,100 households are directly affected (approximately 4,000 people). These are still preliminary figures to be confirmed by further assessments.

“The Disaster Management Department of ONS is in charge of the overall coordination and response, with military and police involved in rescue operations in affected areas,” said Langumba Keili, the director of ONS. “The death toll is expected to continue to rise over the next few days and weeks, as emergency teams search through the debris and mud.”

Communications and electricity have been disrupted, and extensive damage has been done to roads, infrastructure and houses. The full extent of the damage is still being assessed. Further mudslides from Sugar Loaf Mountain, at the base of which Freetown sits, due to forecasted heavy rains could lead to further disasters.

“Access to safe water and health services, as well as widespread displacement are expected to be immediate concerns for thousands of people,” said Sanusi Savage, IOM  Sierra Leone Chief of Mission. “We will do everything to reach affected communities and give aid to vulnerable people. The longer we wait to respond, the higher the risk of epidemic disease outbreaks or Acute Watery Diarrhoea are due to contaminated water sources.”

IOM, as a member of the UN Country Team, and humanitarian partners, including the Red Cross, have mobilized and are supporting ONS. After learning of the mudslide and the floods, IOM immediately committed to enhancing its emergency relief in the country including through the use of funds from the Government of Japan. The activities planned with this funding are emergency assistance to the people affected by the mudslide and the floods and through distributions of core relief items, including emergency shelter kits. IOM and ONS have agreed upon a standard shelter and kitchen set to be distributed to families whose houses were destroyed by the floods. IOM is deploying an Information Management expert on Sunday (20/08) to support the Government in data collection, coordination and analysis.

Prior to the floods, IOM had been supporting national authorities and local organizations in Sierra Leone through capacity building in disaster preparedness, displacement management and data collection.

The Government and humanitarian partners are registering survivors, and those who have lost family members. Red Cross volunteers are also digging for missing persons and supporting distraught families. The World Food Programme is distributing food. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation requested a series of health items to be delivered at the Central Medical Store in Freetown in order to respond to the urgent medical needs, which IOM has started to send. IOM has distributed gloves, aprons, face masks, gowns, chlorine, and liquid soap, among others.

The Sierra Leonean Government leads the response and is working with international organizations to fill in the gap in available resources. The Government has clearly indicated to partners that it will need urgent support and assistance in responding to the disaster to avert further human suffering. Currently, a public health preparedness plan is being developed by the Government and health partners in order to adequately respond to potential outbreaks of cholera and other water-borne diseases. There is also a plan being developed to train community health workers on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and water-borne disease surveillance.

The Governments of China, Ireland, UK, Guinea, Nigeria, Liberia, Belgium, Switzerland and Israel, as well as the European Union have made pledges to the inter-agency response. IOM is in discussions with donors to continue an immediate expansion of its humanitarian operations in Sierra Leone as part of the inter-agency response to the floods

Sierra Leone: Hundreds feared dead in Freetown landslide

Hundreds of people are reported dead after a hillside in the Regent area collapsed early on Monday following heavy rains, leaving many houses covered in mud.

IMG-20170814-WA0080Torrential rain fall which started in the early hours of 4:30 am in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown also affected residents of Regent, Kaningo, IMATT, and Kingtom.

Continuous heavy rainfalls are common in Sierra Leone due to the country’s tropical climate but recent events are different with high level of torrential rains and flooding causing havoc throughout the country.

The houses of the Information and Communication Minister and the Mayor of Freetown have reportedly collapsed at Regent with all the caretakers of the minister dead.

Sierra Leone’s Vice-President Victor Bockarie Foh said it was “likely that hundreds are lying dead”.

Mr Foh told Reuters news agency that the disaster was “so serious that I myself feel broken”, adding that the area was being cordoned off as people were being evacuated.

A Mortuary attendant at the Connaught Hospital-Sinneh Kamara has just disclosed that they have (at the moment) more than 200 dead bodies including 30 children.

Kamara called on Sierra Leoneans to visit the Connaught mortuary and identify the corpses for burial.

He blamed the Office of National Security for incompetence and “undermining President Ernest Bai Koroma “who established the Disaster Management as a remedy to such emergency disaster in the country.

Others are blaming the Environmental Protection Agency-EPA and the Meteorological Agency for incompetence.

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