HomeWorld NewsClimate disasters put the plight of the displaced at the center of...

Climate disasters put the plight of the displaced at the center of COP27

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Issack Hassan lives in a migrant camp in the Somali town of Baidoa, one of more than a million people displaced since January after five successive failed rainy seasons.

With Somalia in the midst of its worst drought in 40 years, “people got weak from starvation so we had to flee for our lives,” said Hassan, 82. But he could not escape the tragedy.

“My wife starved to death here and I was left defenseless,” he said in a video interview distributed by the UN refugee agency.

There are some 22 million people like Hassan displaced each year in weather-induced disasters, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Some had lived along the coasts or on islands that are losing ground due to rising sea levels. Others in the Arctic fled the crumbling cliffs when the permafrost melted.

Uprooted, they become more vulnerable to violence, hunger and disease, experts say. And with climate change fueling increasingly extreme weather around the world, the number of displaced people is expected to rise to around 143 million by mid-century.

Given the growing need, developing countries at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt this month are demanding that rich nations offer more help.

Some are looking for more funding to adapt to climate extremes. They also want rich nations to pay for the loss and damage that is now being seen.

“Every government affected by climate change migrants can raise the issue” at the UN summit, said Caroline Dumas, IOM special envoy for migration and climate action.

Most of the displaced remain in their country of origin, so they can be represented as citizens by their governments. But those who cross an international border may end up without a safety net, as climate migrants do not qualify for refugee status under the UN Refugee Convention.

“I am a refugee, a former refugee,” said Emtithal Mahmoud, a goodwill ambassador for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. The Sudanese-American poet, whose family was propelled by the Sudan war, told Reuters that she, too, experienced the ravages that extreme weather can wreak.

“There is something I know about the drought,” he said. “For us, the drought kills the plants, it kills everything, and then the rain comes and washes away the houses,” he said.

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