Climate change compounds hunger and conflicts

01.07.2019 - Article

Climate change added to warfare is worsening hunger worldwide, according to one of Germany's largest aid groups. Welthungerhilfe said many poor have “no more reserves or resilience left” when hit by extreme weather.

Many poor have no more reserves or resilience left when hit by extreme weather.
Many poor have no more reserves or resilience left when hit by extreme weather.© picture-alliance/imageBROKER/K.Kramer

The world's southern hemisphere poor were bearing the brunt of climate change caused by rich, fossil-fuel consumers of the global North, Welthungerhilfe President Marlehn Thieme said in Berlin on Wednesday.

Presenting the Bonn-based organization's annual report for 2018, Thieme said climate change amounted to a “question of justice” in ensuring that resources — still sufficient worldwide to feed everyone — reached the poorest.

Hunger victims, often already cut off to outside help by conflict parties, no longer had livelihoods and sustenance as droughts, floods and storms wrecked their fields and eliminated their farm animals.

Weather extremes compounding plight

Citing Cyclon Idai, which in April ravaged Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, Thieme said weather extremes had become an additional “fatal link” hampering aid workers and restoration of communal nutrition.

Drastic declines in land and oceanic harvests amid rising average temperatures required answers in the form of early warning systems, weather insurance and drought-durable seeds, she added.

Coupled with warfare, in which conflict parties cut off “entire regions” from the outside world, extreme weather was a compounding factor, said Welthungerhilfe's Secretary General Mathias Mogge.

Spiral of conflict

Citing as examples South Sudan, Congo and Niger, Mogge said villagers lost “their entire livelihoods.” Resources like water and grazing land became scarce, leading to further conflict, in societies where people already had little to withstand emergencies.

“Schools and hospitals are targeted for bombing,” he said, further preventing arrivals of aid supplies and making “working conditions for our staff” increasingly dangerous. Welthungerhilfe's precept of “help for self-help” remained so people can “shape their lives in a self-determined way,” said Mogge.

Sharing seed and tools

Queuing for rations at Bentiu in South Sudan.
Queuing for rations at Bentiu in South Sudan.© DW/J.P. Scholz

He cited a smartphone app used in Myanmar to boost seed production and programmed in cooperation with Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands.

“Those who have grown seed can sell it to those who have little or no seed. Another app informs users which farmers rent tools they currently don't need,” said Mogge.

Reliant on public donors

Reporting on its 2018 efforts, Welthungerhilfe said it had spent 213.6 million Euro (243 million US dollars) on the fight against hunger and poverty last year.

Public donors provided 155.4 million Euro for project work. Private donations amounted to 54.9 million Euro. The largest public donor was the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ), which provided 38.6 million Euro. The largest project regions supported by Welthungerhilfe were Burundi, Liberia and Syria/Turkey.

© Deutsche Welle

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