As the world struggles with the enormous challenge of climate change, educating communities is vital, especially in developing countries where the poorest are most at risk of the impacts.
Poor people in developing countries often depend on the natural environment for their income, and for their food and water supplies. They often live in areas susceptible to changing weather patterns such as low-lying coastal and arid areas.
As a result, poor people in developing countries are more vulnerable to climate change impacts such as droughts, floods and other natural disasters.
Weather-related natural disasters are increasing. 2011 was the costliest year ever in terms of natural disasters, with an estimated US$380 billion in global losses. This included more than 800 specific events, 90 per cent of which were weather-related. The majority of these were in the Asia-Pacific region, home to most of the world’s poorest countries.
Another disturbing fact is that women are often worse off in disasters, whatever their cause. About 85 per cent of the people affected by the Pakistan floods in 2011 were women and children, and around 500,000 were pregnant women. Flood waters had damaged or destroyed more than 200 hospitals and clinics, and in some areas, female doctors and other staff were not available to provide health services to pregnant women. With limited or no access to health facilities, women were at a greater risk of complications and death related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Education helps developing countries and poor communities understand the potential impacts of climate change on their communities; how to prepare for it and the effects of major disasters. This is key to saving lives and protecting past, present and future development gains.
Studies have found that for each dollar invested in disaster risk reduction, two to ten dollars are saved in avoided or reduced disaster response and recovery costs.
The Australian aid program is working to improve national and community-level disaster response and recovery plans and activities.
We’re working to educate communities and governments about the importance of protecting against the loss of jobs and incomes because of climate change impacts such as rising temperatures and sea levels.
We’re also working to educate communities and governments about the importance of mitigating against potential climate change hazards now and in the future.