UNHCR seeks to protect displaced populations from climate shocks

IANS Photo

IANS Photo

Nairobi, September 6 (IANS): The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has committed to climate action in Africa as part of efforts to address displacement and provide protection to vulnerable populations in the continent.

UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Raouf Mazou said the UN body's commitments were aligned with its overarching vision to create resilient, sustainable, and inclusive solutions for displaced populations across Africa, reports Xinhua news agency.

"UNHCR is taking action to mobilize financing, enhance legal frameworks, strengthen data availability, reduce carbon emissions, and promote sustainable settlement, all with the aim of mitigating climate-related displacement and ensuring the well-being of affected populations," he said in a statement.

Mazou and Majid Al Suwaidi, director-general and special representative of the UN climate change conference (COP28), traveled to northeast Kenya's Dadaab refugee complex in advance of this week's Africa climate summit.

He said UNHCR recognizes the unique vulnerabilities faced by forcibly displaced populations and host communities in Africa.

"We must act now to ensure that the most vulnerable, who bear the highest cost, are not left alone in their struggle and have their voices heard," Mazou said.

In Dadaab, they witnessed the impact of climate change on refugees and host communities.

Kenya continues to be among the top refugee-hosting countries in Africa and is heavily impacted by regional displacement crises, according to the UN agency.

The country generously hosts more than 630,000 refugees and has witnessed increased cross-border movements due to intensifying climate shocks that have contributed to food insecurity, tensions, and cycles of conflict in neighboring countries.

Al Suwaidi said the Dadaab refugee complex, which is one of the largest refugee settlements in the world, is a striking example of the urgent and interconnected challenges people face.

"Unpredictable weather patterns and the devastating Horn of Africa droughts have disrupted communities and livelihoods, pushing them to the brink of survival," he said during the visit.

The UNHCR said while rains finally came in May in the Horn of Africa, the effects of a severe drought, the worst in four decades, continue to impact the lives of millions of displaced and local communities in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.

The agency said it is dedicated to mobilising further resources, with funding commitments of up to $500 million identified so far to integrate climate action within its programing across 24 African countries for the year 2024.

It said climate impacts continue to exacerbate the challenges vulnerable populations face with the combination of conflict and drought severely affecting their search for safety, basic necessities, and a means to survive.

"Our responses across the region must factor in the impact of extreme weather events, such as the recurring droughts or floods attributed to climate change," UNHCR said, adding that it will collaborate with governments, regional bodies, partners, and communities to forge a future where the impact of climate-related events on displacement is met with resilience, protection, and solutions.