IFRC: 140 million people hit by twin crises of climate and Covid

IFRC: 140 million people hit by twin crises of climate and Covid
16 September 2021

by the IFRC

(This story is an IFRC press release issued in New York and Geneva earlier today. The report is being rolled out at the United Nations General Assembly. It has been edited slightly here for length.)

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, climate-related disasters have affected the lives of some 140 million people and killed at least 17,200. This is the main finding of a new analysis published today by the IFRC and the Climate Centre on the compound impacts of extreme-weather events and Covid-19.

Nearly a further estimated 660 million vulnerable people have been exposed to extreme temperatures.

Through new data and case studies, the report shows how people across the world are facing multiple crises and coping with overlapping vulnerabilities.

The paper also highlights the need to address both crises simultaneously as the Covid-19 pandemic has affected livelihoods across the world and has made communities more vulnerable to climate risks.

‘The massive spending on Covid recovery proves governments can act fast in the face of global threats. It’s time to devote the same energy to the climate crisis’

IFRC President Francesco Rocca, who today presented the report at a press conference in New York, said: “The world is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis where the climate change and Covid-19 are pushing communities to their limits.

“In the lead-up to COP 26, we urge world leaders to take immediate action not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also to address the existing and imminent humanitarian impacts of climate change.”

The report comes a year after an initial analysis of the overlapping risks of extreme-weather events that have occurred during the Covid-19 crisis.

The pandemic continues to wreak havoc, with direct health impacts for millions of people around the world, but also a massive indirect impact, in part due to the response measures implemented to contain the pandemic. 

Food insecurity caused by weather extremes has been aggravated by Covid-19. Health systems are pushed to their limits and the most vulnerable have been the most exposed to overlapping shocks.

In Afghanistan, the impacts of the extreme drought are compounded by conflict and Covid-19. The drought has crippled agricultural food production and diminished livestock, leaving millions of people hungry and malnourished.

The Afghan Red Crescent Society has ramped up relief, including food and cash assistance for people to buy food supplies, plant drought-resistant food crops, and protect their livestock.

Overlapping crises

In Honduras, responding to Hurricanes Eta and Iota during the pandemic, also meant additional challenges. Thousands of people became homeless in temporary shelters, where physical distancing and other protective measures limited capacity.

In Kenya, the impacts of Covid-19 are colliding with floods in one year and droughts in the next, as well as a locust infestation. Over 2 million people are facing acute food insecurity in rural and urban areas.

National Societies are not only responding to the overlapping crises but also helping communities to prepare and anticipate climate risks.

In Bangladesh, for instance, the Red Crescent has used IFRC funds designated for anticipatory action to disseminate flood-related early warning messages through loudspeakers in vulnerable areas so people can take the necessary measures or evacuate.

Julie Arrighi, Associate Director at the Climate Centre, said today: “Hazards do not need to become disasters. We can counter the trend of rising risks and save lives if we change how we anticipate crises, fund early action and risk reduction at the local level.

“We need to help communities become more resilient, especially in the most vulnerable contexts.”

Mr Rocca added: “The massive spending on Covid-19 recovery proves that governments can act fast and drastically in the face of global threats. It is time to turn words into action and devote the same energy to the climate crisis.

“Every day, we are witnessing the impact of human-made climate change. The climate crisis is here, and we need to act now.”

Bangladesh Red Crescent teams rescued people and provided support to survivors in July 2021 after heavy monsoon floods and landslides. This year alone the camps in Cox’s Bazar were hit with Covid-19, house fires and most recently a relentless monsoon (photo). The picture appears in a new IFRC-Climate Centre report out today on the twin crises of Covid and climate. (Photo: Bangladesh Red Crescent via IFRC)