We saw this coming. As humanitarians, our risk assessments in different parts of the world have always factored in the potential for extreme weather events and the spread of vector-borne diseases, of drought, desertification, and mass displacement. Emergency first responders like us work up scenarios for interventions and gain experience each time we put our planning to the test in real crises.
As a medical humanitarian organization that works with some of the most vulnerable communities in climate hotspots, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are responding to the kinds of public health challenges that threaten to increase in number and severity without urgent action to reduce carbon emissions. We are facing a climate emergency, with devastating consequences for global health and humanitarian needs. Poor and marginalized communities already suffer the worst consequences of climate change, and are at greatest risk of future harm.
We witness firsthand how environmental factors can worsen humanitarian crises. MSF captured some of this experience in a special report, “Climate Change and Health: an urgent new frontier for humanitarianism,” published as part of the Lancet Countdown project examining current and forecast climate-related impacts on health.
Earlier this year, we launched a massive emergency operation in Mozambique following the devastating floods caused by Cyclone Idai. A few weeks later, with people still reeling from the disaster, a second cyclone struck the country. It was the first time in recorded history that two cyclones hit Mozambique in a single season. The scale of the damage caused by these back-to-back disasters was a wake-up call to prepare for more high-impact tropical cyclones, coastal flooding, and intense rainfall linked to climate change, according to a statement by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a UN agency.