This summer, the climate crisis moved to Europe’s front door and dominated its headlines. Up close in real time, we watched the rapid devastation, heartbreaking losses and heartbreaking rescues by local first responders as floods inundated Western European communities.
And despite the tireless efforts of firefighters and volunteers throughout the Mediterranean region, the worst forest fires on record continued to devastate forests and residential areas.
Over the past decade, extreme weather events have affected more than 1.7 billion people worldwide and killed nearly half a million. These events are undoubtedly on the rise, occurring with increasing frequency and intensity around the world.
But while everyone is aware of mega-disasters, the vast majority of climate-related emergencies are occurring outside of global attention. They are devastating lives, livelihoods, infrastructure and economies in countries and communities with limited resources or capacity to prepare and respond.
Take for example Algeria, Albania and North Macedonia, where deadly forest fires, sparked by record temperatures, have scorched villages, farms and forests. This caused the displacement of tens of thousands of people, all amid alarming waves of COVID-19 cases.
In Burundi, Yemen, Mongolia and Panama, heavy rains and floods in recent months have wreaked havoc on hundreds of thousands of people, in addition to other ongoing humanitarian emergencies.
The real, often unnoticed impact of climate change lies in the rising tide of smaller climate-related disasters like these, which disproportionately affect already vulnerable populations.
We must improve the capacities where people live
It may seem obvious, but whatever the disaster and wherever it strikes, whether the onset is slow and exhausting or fast and furious, many more lives could be saved if resources are channeled quickly and directly to strong local actors who have the confidence of the affected communities and access to them.
Already on the ground, it is people and local actors who are best positioned to respond to early warnings and forecasts, prepare for disasters before they strike, and provide critical assistance in the aftermath. This is as true for Belgium as it is for Bangladesh.
International actors will always play a vital role in humanitarian action, particularly for large and complex emergencies. But when it comes to most disaster response operations, the traditional approach of funding international agencies that outsource to local groups must complement agile local action.
Much more investment needs to be made locally to ensure vulnerable communities can anticipate risk, prepare for extreme weather events, act early to protect themselves and reduce impact, and respond quickly and effectively when they need to, because that’s what It saves lives and saves money. .
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and its largest donor, the European Commission, are committed to building community resilience, investing in early, local and cost-effective action, and strengthening community resilience. capacity, coordination and accountability in the country.
One of the fastest, most effective and transparent mechanisms to do this is the International Federation’s Emergency Disaster Relief Fund, which channels resources directly to national societies that are already embedded in communities on the front lines of climate change. .
On average, the fund supports more than 100 responses to small and medium-sized disasters each year, enabling teams to anticipate hazards, prepare for disasters before they strike, and launch life-saving services after they strike.
COVID-19 exposed the weak spots
The COVID-19 pandemic underscored something we’ve known for a long time: The future of disaster response must be local.
The crisis caused by the pandemic was a severe blow, as international and travel restrictions drastically reduced international deployments. Local first responders had yet to respond to extreme weather events and other emergencies, exacerbated by the pandemic.
The pandemic also exposed extreme vulnerabilities and inequalities across countries and systems, and made clear the need and value of fundraising and early action.
We urge governments and other international donors to make this investment and do it locally, where it has the greatest impact.
To this end, the International Federation is organizing a pledging conference on October 18, 2021, to be co-chaired by the European Commission, with the aim of expanding the Emergency Fund for Disaster Relief.
Now more than ever, it is vital to expand the resource base for local anticipatory action and response, close the widening gap between humanitarian needs and global donations, and continue to use scarce resources wisely.
Janez Lenarčič is the European Commissioner for Crisis Management. Jagan Chapagain is Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism