Preparing for climate change across francophone Africa

Published: 7 September 2015 11:00 CET

By Karemeri Ndungu, IFRC, and Margot Steelenbergen, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre

Intense rain and devastating floods in Ghana, Togo and Benin in early June proved yet again the importance of preparing for extreme weather events and climate change. The Red Cross Red Crescent is committed to responding to such disasters and better preparing communities for their increasing frequency in the future.

Over 200 people died during the floods in Ghana, and more than 46,000 people were affected. The Ghana Red Cross Society, supported by funds released from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Disaster Relief Emergency Fund, is working to provide shelter and emergency health care to affected people.

In Togo, Red Cross staff and volunteers from 12 neighbouring francophone countries met recently to learn more about preparing for climate variation and mitigating the impact of disasters like the Benin, Ghana, and Togo floods. 

The Togolese Red Cross shared its experience in setting up an intricate early warning system that, in June, was used to alert people to the dangers of flooding and ultimately saved lives.  The National Society has also pioneered forecast-based financing, a mechanism that releases humanitarian funding based on forecast information, rather than waiting until after the disaster has occurred.

Participants were exposed to the theory and practice of forecast-based decision making and learned how to establish community early-warning systems. Such systems enable communities to collect, compile or analyze climate information and disseminate warning messages to help other community members avoid weather hazards, such as floods. Living and working alongside and within vulnerable communities, Red Cross staff and volunteers are in a perfect position to help communities adapt to changing weather and prepare for extreme weather events.

The IFRC, the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, and the Red Cross Red Crescent Livelihoods Centre supported the training. The Red Cross Livelihoods Centre focused on the link between food and nutrition security and livelihoods-planning in a changing climate. Disaster preparedness within a changing climate was also covered, with issues of public awareness and communication to communities given significant attention.

The closing ceremony marked the start of a renewed commitment to address climate change among the 12 francophone National Societies in Africa, with plans for integrating this commitment into programming. The IFRC and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre will be supporting this renewed commitment.