The UN conference on climate change (COP21) is underway in Paris where the international community has come together for 12 days to seek measures to tackle the effects of climate change. The major objective of the conference is to limit global warming to 2°C by the beginning of the next century. Helping poor countries to make their contribution to reaching this goal is a challenge. To help them to do that, wealthy nations have pledged a ‘Green Fund’ of 100 Billion dollars per year from 2020.
A report by the World Bank published at the beginning of November, highlights the link between poverty and climate change. The increased number of natural disasters such as landslides, drought and flooding that are attributed to climate change mostly affect impoverished populations living a precarious existence in vulnerable areas. Climate change also has an effect on their crops, their living conditions, and the transmission of diseases. People living in high-risk areas need to be prepared to face future disasters. Through its emergency relief agency, Malteser International, the Order of Malta is helping them to do just that by implementing disaster risk reduction measures. The following are a few examples:
Lowering risk in the health field in Pakistan
Following severe flooding in northern Pakistan in 2010, Malteser International has been on the ground providing training in dealing with disasters and reducing their effects. The project is aimed at local health authorities.
Better prepared for drought in the horn of Africa
During the drought in the summer of 2011 that affected millions of people in the region, Malteser International provided aid to more than 80,000 people. Following the emergency, Malteser International continued to provide long-term support to people in need. In the remote district of Illaret in Kenya, a region with practically no available drinking water, teams of the Order of Malta have trained local populations in the collection and storage of rainwater.
Protecting the forests of Vietnam
For the Ca Tu, an ethnic minority living in the mountains of central Vietnam, the use of slash and burn agriculture has had a devastating effect on their environment, and their livelihood – leading to ongoing soil degradation, and the extinction of plant and animal species. Malteser International aims to preserve these resources for the future, as well as provide a better standard of living by encouraging sustainable use of the forests.
Preparing for cyclones in Myanmar
In Myanmar’s Rakhine state, natural disasters like cyclones and flooding are a constant threat – placing vulnerable coastal communities at risk of devastation. Local residents often live in simple bamboo structures, and are completely unprepared for the dangers that they face. Malteser International has been helping to prepare these local populations for disasters since 2005 – teaching them to properly asses and manage risk. Mangrove forests are planted to provide protection from the cyclones, as well as a habitat for wildlife – a sustainable source of food and income for local people.