Rescue workers help evacuating flood-affected people from their flood hit homes following heavy monsoon rains in Rajanpur district of Punjab province on August 27, 2022.

Rescue workers help evacuating flood-affected people from their homes following heavy monsoon rains in Rajanpur district of Punjab province, Pakistan, on August 27, 2022.

(Photo; Shahid Saeed Mirza/AFP via Getty Images)

As the Climate Heats Up, Disaster Relief Faces a Sweltering Demand

With climate change exacerbating the destructive impacts of extreme weather, it's marginalized and low-income communities that bear the brunt of the consequences.

This Earth Day is like no other—our planet reached its highest recorded temperature in 2023, and the climate crisis is rapidly reaching the point of no return. A growing number of climate-related disasters, including floods, wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and the like, will continue to wreak havoc and devastate communities across the globe. Climate preparedness and resiliency programs, such as early warning systems, community-based disaster risk reduction, and climate-smart agriculture, are increasingly necessary to prevent damage and keep humanity safe.

Emergency response organizations like CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) are at the forefront of addressing climate catastrophes, providing immediate relief to help rebuild communities, and implementing long-term solutions to mitigate future risks. The devastating impact of these disasters, exacerbated by the climate crisis, is felt most deeply in developing and low-income countries like Haiti and Pakistan.

Exacerbated by the increasingly volatile security situation facing the country where CORE (formerly J/P HRO) began, Haiti is currently ranked in the top 10 of the Climate Risk Index, which combines exposure to extreme weather events and societal vulnerabilities. This ranking indicates its significant susceptibility to the escalating impacts of climate change, affecting the well-being and livelihoods of over 11 million people. Additionally, recent storms have led to an estimated $61 million loss in agricultural production. With the looming threat of intensified environmental disasters like hurricanes and floods, Haiti faces deepening economic repercussions unless proactive measures are implemented.

With climate change intensifying these challenges, the need for urgent actions is clear.

As temperatures rise across South Asia, the volume of meltwater from the Himalayas has notably surged. Scientists further observe that climate change has led to a heightened unpredictability in monsoon rains. Pakistan experienced unprecedented devastation from monsoon rains that began in 2022.

Approximately one-third of the country was submerged, affecting around 33 million people, equivalent to roughly 14% of Pakistan's population. According to Pakistan's Natural Disaster Management Authority, the floods claimed the lives of over 1,700 individuals, with countless others forced to flee their homes. Flooding remains a significant issue for communities to this day. Beyond the extensive property damage, Pakistan's crucial agriculture sector, which serves as a cornerstone of its economy, bore severe repercussions, with many fields left underwater. Authorities in Pakistan estimate that the floods caused approximately $30 billion in combined damages and economic losses.

European Union data show that Pakistan contributes less than 1% to global planet-warming emissions. Despite this relatively low number, Pakistan is ranked as the eighth most vulnerable nation to the effects of climate change, as per the Global Climate Risk Index.

CORE has been at the forefront of the climate crisis in these two countries. After the devastating Pakistan floods in 2022, CORE responded to the initial disaster, ensuring the pressing needs of 80,000 villagers in the south were met through the distribution of food, hygiene, and medical support and the provision of temporary shelter solutions. In the years after that initial response, CORE collaborated with local leaders to help safeguard communities from similar destruction in the future through innovative mitigation works. CORE raised plots of land in entire villages, built sustainable flood walls, and installed water pumps to keep community members safe and give them peace of mind.

In Haiti, where we have deep community roots tracing back to the 2010 earthquake, we've worked with local fishers and farmers in the south to assist them as they face this "new normal." CORE's goal is to help promote sustainable, nature-based solutions to the impact of climate change that will increase the health and longevity of local ecosystems. Through a ridge-to-reef approach, CORE is assisting farmers in planting sustainable crops that will reduce erosion, which will help strengthen the health of nearby reefs that are the cornerstone of the local fish population and a critical source of income and food for these communities. As part of coastal preservation under the ongoing program with the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund, CORE is working with local enterprises to plant new mangroves to restore areas damaged by human activity and improve sanitation as current practices pollute sensitive estuaries.

Domestically, places like California and New Orleans have seen an influx of extreme weather, including wildfires, excessive rainfall, and severe flooding. With climate change intensifying these challenges, the need for urgent actions is clear. The importance of proactive measures such as preparedness initiatives and other adaptation strategies cannot be overstated. These measures are crucial to bolster community resilience and mitigate the potentially catastrophic consequences for at-risk populations.

Over the last decade, CORE, alongside local partners and committed staff, has witnessed the remarkable resilience of vulnerable communities despite facing the worst climate-related disasters. Take our partners, Riverside Development Organisation in Pakistan and Haitian-led Acceso, for instance, who have shown incredible strength and adaptability in meeting immediate and long-term needs. CORE's environmental resilience initiatives have been crucial in equipping local partners and staff with resources and knowledge to confront and mitigate climate challenges, focusing on the hardest-hit populations in affected areas.

The urgency to protect our planet has never been more evident. With climate change exacerbating the destructive impacts of extreme weather, it's marginalized and low-income communities that bear the brunt of the consequences. This underscores the critical need for collective action to support these communities with dedicated action to tackle environmental and social issues head-on. We must all play a part in forging a pathway of climate resiliency and sustainability to ensure the planet and those of us who inhabit it thrive.

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