On 19 August 2003, a bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, killed 22 humanitarian aid workers, including the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Five years later, the General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 19 August as World Humanitarian Day (WHD).
Each year, WHD focuses on a theme, bringing together partners from across the humanitarian system to advocate for the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crises, and for the safety and security of aid workers.
This year, the highlight is the immediate human cost of the climate crisis by pressuring world leaders to take meaningful climate action for the world’s most vulnerable people.
WHD is a campaign by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and humanitarian partners.
This year, World Humanitarian Day is highlighting #TheHumanRace: a global challenge for climate action in solidarity with people who need it the most.
Solidarity begins with developed countries fulfilling their decade old pledge of $100 billion annually for climate action in developing countries.
The climate emergency is wreaking havoc across the world at a scale that people on the front lines and in the humanitarian community cannot manage. Time is already running out for the world’s most vulnerable people — those who have contributed least to the global climate emergency yet are hit the hardest — and millions of others that are already losing their homes, their livelihoods, and their lives.
The impact of climate
In many developing countries, women and girls often carry the burden of water and fuel collection and food provision.
Climate change increases the risk of droughts
Droughts can destroy crops, soils, flora and fauna, intensify food scarcity, and worsen the situation of women and girls, particularly in already fragile places.
Today, greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels remain primary energy sources. Women disproportionately bear the burden of energy poverty.
- 1.1 billion people lacking access to electricity.
- 3 billion people still cooking and heating their homes with solid fuels.
- 4.3 million deaths linked to household air pollution
Global warming, rising temperatures and sea levels, and extreme weather events are threatening island nations and coastal communities, putting the livelihoods of millions at risk.
- 250,000 Additional climate-related deaths per year expected between 2030 and 2050 from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress.
Over the past decade, weather-related events triggered an average of 21.5 million new displacements* each year – more than twice as many as displacements caused by conflict and violence.
*”New displacements” refers to the number of movements. One individual could be forced to move more than once, with each movement counting as one new displacement.
Most people displaced by disasters remain within their home countries, often living in areas highly exposed to weather-related hazards, such as floods and storms. Some of them are unable to return home becoming internally displaced people, while a smaller number seek safety in other countries and may be in need of international protection.
In addition to the direct impacts of more frequent and intense disasters on forced movements, climate change is aggravating other drivers of displacement — worsening poverty, food insecurity, water shortages and access to other natural resources that communities rely on for survival.
Multiple disasters hit countries’ economies as well as individual household incomes, leaving communities with limited capacity or government assistance to recover. When combined with political and socioeconomic factors, they can push countries into a succession of crises and exacerbate instability and pre-existing vulnerabilities.
As productive land and water become scarcer due to the impacts of climate change, decreasing crop yields and food production have major implications for food security.
Prices tend to increase, making food unaffordable for many impoverished or displaced communities. Food insecurity can be a direct outcome of climate-related disasters or conflict, or result from a combination of both. It can also be a trigger for social tensions and violence, increasing the risk of new displacement.
Worldwide, 80 per cent of displaced people live in areas affected by malnutrition and acute food insecurity.
No room to recover
More than 1 billion people live in countries with high exposure to climate-related hazards and limited capacity to recover when a disaster occurs. In 2019, roughly 95 per cent of displacements due to disasters were triggered by weather events, particularly storms and floods.
Recurring storms and floods in conflict areas add to the burden on affected people and governments, leaving them no room to recover. In turn, conflict may increase vulnerability to disasters – limiting the availability of safe places to shelter and basic infrastructure to respond. Fear of targeted attacks can also leave displaced people exposed to the elements.
For millions of people across Africa, Asia and Latin America, climate change means more frequent and intense floods, droughts and storms, accounting each year for up to 90 percent of all climate-related disasters. These can quickly spiral into full-blown food and nutrition crises.
With the vast majority of the world’s hungry exposed to climate shocks, eradicating hunger requires bold efforts to improve people’s ability to prepare, respond and recover. Failing this, it has been estimated that the risk of hunger and malnutrition could increase by up to 20 percent by 2050.
With most climate campaigns focused on slowing climate change and securing the planet’s future, World Humanitarian Day 2021, will highlight the immediate consequences of the climate emergency for the world’s most vulnerable people and ensure that their voices are heard, and their needs top the agenda at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November.
Join #theHumanRace: Run, ride, swim, walk or do any activity of your choice for a cumulative 100 minutes between August 16 and August 31 in solidarity with vulnerable people and to tell world leaders that they expect developed countries to deliver on their decade-old pledge of $100 billion annually for climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. If you don’t wish to take part physically you can ADD YOUR VOICE (see link below).
Estimates predict that without ambitious climate action and disaster risk reduction, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance due to disasters could increase to 200 million annually by 2050 – nearly twice the current number. The longer we delay action to support poorer countries that are highly vulnerable to climate change, the worse the consequences are likely to be, making responses even more complex and costly.
Link to World Humanitarian Day web page:
Link to video on World Humanitarian Day 2021:
Link to join #theHumanRace:
Link to continue the Race:
Link to related video: