By Necephor Mghendi and Afrhill Rances in Manila
One of the keys to protecting communities prone to climate-related hazards is integrating disaster risk reduction efforts with community-based risk management approaches. This was the message that the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) took to governments, inter-governmental organizations, NGOs, the private sector and academia at a recent Asia Pacific conference focused on developing policy responses to climate-induced migration.
The two-day conference was hosted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in the Philippine capital, Manila. Leading experts and decision makers from different disciplines discussed the need to improve the resilience of vulnerable communities in view of environmental disruptions that could increase forced migration.
Bart Edes, ADB’s director for sustainable development, said the need for action was pressing. "Extreme weather events are already causing people to move,” he said. The effects of floods and storms displaced some 30 million people in Asia and the Pacific in 2010, and while many of those displaced returned home, many more did not.
As well as being home to 60 per cent of the world's population, the Asia Pacific region endures the most of world’s disasters. According to the IFRC World Disasters Report 2011, between 2001 and 2010, 85 per cent of the total number of people impacted by disasters and 66 per cent of all fatalities globally occurred in the region.
Greg Vickery, a member of IFRC’s governing board and president of the Australian Red Cross, said: “Through our work with local communities, we have witnessed an increase in the frequency of extreme weather and climate-related hazards that have had a significant effect on the ability of communities in the region to adapt and recover.”
The IFRC undertakes long-term development work through its member National Societies in 36 countries across Asia Pacific. Together they support local community efforts to become more resilient to climate-related hazards.
“We see migration as one strategy for adaptation. Climate-related hazards and disasters influence mobility patterns. Possible changes range from increasing short-term displacement, loss of nomadic ways of life, to rural flight and long-distance migration,” added Greg Vickery.
In Mongolia, as a result of the severe winters or dzuds, several hundred thousand nomadic families face serious distress through loss of cattle and livelihoods. They have been drifting to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, where many face hardship as they have no knowledge about registration processes to access state benefits.
The Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS) is supporting internal migrants through a project that includes a component of legal rights training. The organization also works more widely to address issues affecting the new urban poor, helping vulnerable groups such as the elderly and disabled to access social care services.
In Philippines, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has been involved in the relocation of communities that used to live on exposed pieces of land next to Laguna Bay in Central Luzon and on the banks of Chico River in the mountainous province of Kalinga. The PRC has worked with local government authorities to find suitable land and helped construct shelters for internal migrants after the land on which they previously live was deemed unsafe to rebuild on after typhoon Ketsana.
While resources are already available for large scale, dramatic and high profile events such as earthquakes or cyclones, some Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, especially in developing nations, struggle to amass sufficient donor support for long-term development work, including improving knowledge on climate change.
“As we welcome the opportunity to build on the commitment made in our Strategy 2020 to continue to tackle the humanitarian consequences of climate change, we reiterate our call on governments, donor organizations and key partners to recognize the need for sufficient resources to address the cumulative vulnerabilities created by such challenges,” said Greg Vickery.