Africa’s Natural Disaster & Climate Funds Have Been Diverted To Address COVID-19 Pandemic – IFRC World Disaster Report
Nearly 1 million Somalians were affected during the 2020 flooding. The World Disaster Report found that COVID-19 has presented new risks to the African continents already limited in their financial resources.

COVID-19 has presented new risks to the African continent, with already limited financial resources needed to respond to climate hazards and natural disasters now being diverted to fight the pandemic.

The pandemic has made it all the more challenging to ensure there is adequate disaster financing on the continent, and this now needs urgent attention, said Kai Gatkuoth, the technical coordinator for disaster risk reduction at the Directorate of Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission, following the launch of the International Federaton of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) 2020 World Disaster Report in the Africa Region.

Released under the theme The World Disaster Report 2020: Come Heat or High Water: Tackling the Humanitarian Impacts of Climate Change Crisis, the global report is based on inputs from a number of Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies around the world.  But there is a special focus on the African continent, one of the most vulnerable regions, particularly in terms of climate change-related disasters, which also have knock-on effects in terms food security, conflict – and of course disease.

“Now the confluence between the Covid-19 and climate hazards makes vulnerability even worse for different communities,” observed Gatkuoth.

He cited recent flooding in parts of east, central and west Africa that led to mass movement of people as an example of a natural disaster worsening the Covid-19 situation. “What we need to do now is address the disaster risk within the context of Covid-19,” he urged.

A Covid-19 disaster recovery framework is now under development that will help AU member states respond to the pandemic in the context of disaster reduction. “We are also developing multi-hazard warning systems that will ensure that there is a clear linkage between natural hazards and pandemics as well as pests, diseases and conflicts,” Gatkuoth said.

One of the major challenges for tackling natural disasters on the continent is the disconnect between disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation approaches. At the moment about 30 national disaster risk reduction strategies exist in Africa and are growing.

“The report highlights the importance of having linkages between the two,” said Amjad Abbashar of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. One of the reasons why this is the case is that a lot of governments do not have climate change and disaster risk reduction actors working together, he added, calling for increased dialogue between the sectors. 

More Financing Needed for Disaster Risk Reduction

But with climate related droughts, flooding, locust waves and other events becoming more intense and frequent, preparedness has never been more urgent. But higher levels of preparedness can only be achieved if disaster risk reduction financing is available and adequate, to help African countries better cope with natural calamities, the report stresses. 

This is particularly the case, given that weather-related disasters have risen in intensity, per decade, by nearly 35% since the 1990s. Therefore, increasing disaster risk reduction financing remains a big priority to building resilience across the continent.

The report comes at a time when the “entire humanity is facing complex risks”, noted Ambassador Josefa Sacko, the high commissioner for Agriculture Rural Development Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment at the African Union. She added that the report provided important lessons for narrowing the divide between climate change and disaster risk reduction.

However, Abbashar  said “there needs to be disaster risk financing attached …because you are not going to implement the strategies if they are not budgeted. 

“So, more financial commitment is needed by governments, to ensure that disaster risk reductions strategies are not only coherent, integrated [and] complement climate change adaptation strategies – but that they are also adequately funded,” he observed.

When Abbashar took over as the Africa Region director at the IFRC in September 2020, 11 African countries were appealing for support to cope with floods.

“Is the level preparedness and readiness enough? The clear answer is no,” said the IFRC’s Mohammed Mukier, IFRC’s African Regional Director, referencing the technical capacity and financial resources needed to deal with emergencies.

However, Mukier was also quick to point out that with improved climate modeling, the ability to project and predict trends has improved significantly For example projections of impending drought, floods and even population movements for 2022 is now possible. “With all this predictability why are not investing in terms of building local preparedness and readiness?” Mukier said. 

Despite all the challenges, the mindset across African governments is also changing, Abbashar added, saying that in the wake of the devestation seen by COVID as well as from climate related events, “There is political buy-in as illustrated by such strategies as the African Union Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction, that is critical at the regional level.” 


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