As if armed conflict and economic downturn is not enough doom, it is most likely that climate change will be leading to an acceleration in humanitarian crises around the world in 2023. A recent study by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) – ‘Emergency Watchlist 2023’ – has highlighted that the number of people in humanitarian need has skyrocketed in the last decade. The report puts the current number of such people at around 340 million whereas in 2014 the number of people needing humanitarian aid was slightly over 80 million. Climate change has played a significant role in this increase, emerging as the single most impactful factor pushing people into more misery; human emergencies have accelerated around the world, particularly in the 20 worst affected countries including Afghanistan and Haiti. As the IRC report also underscores, the 20 worst countries impacted by climate change contribute just two per cent to global carbon emissions. Despite a large number of deniers of climate change – including in the most developed countries of the world – the role of climate change in accelerating the global humanitarian crisis is undeniable.
In addition to long periods of rain in some regions that bring catastrophic food insecurity especially in countries such as Ethiopia and Somalia, Pakistan has also become a victim of climate change. There is a need to proactively invest much more to prevent climate change – and this investment must come from the industrialized and rich countries. Without some concrete mitigation efforts by the Global North, the countries of the underserved Global South will keep suffering. These countries face an immense danger of food insecurity which is already rife in certain areas. To top it all, growing conflicts are also sparking economic crises across the world. One example is the crisis Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked. Diseases and pandemics like Covid-19 are also posing a constant threat. The coronavirus pandemic may be on the wane, but there is a likelihood of other viruses emerging out of nowhere.
In all this, there is a need for enhanced financing of humanitarian aid – since, as of November 2022, the world is in a global deficit of over $27 billion. There has to be a proportionate response from all the donors so that communities that get a direct impact of climate change are able to access the services they need to survive. For countries such as Pakistan there is the challenge of rebuilding and recovery efforts for millions of internally displaced people. Around the world, there are nearly 100 million people who have found themselves forced to flee their homes as opposed to 60 million in 2014. Since it is pretty much a given now that the developing world is likely to see a surge in acute hunger, rich and developed countries need to drastically cut their emissions. Unless they enhance their efforts to compensate low-income countries, the miseries of people will keep surging in 2023 and much beyond. A recent Oxfam report had also revealed that acute hunger had risen 123 per cent over the past six years in the ten most-affected nations. All this calls for drastic measures to take place urgently.