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A humanitarian crossroads: Why climate resilience is key to avoiding future food crises

by Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Head of Climate Change Adaptation, Global Environmental Finance Unit, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

This post is part of a series from UNDP experts sharing their views and experiences in the lead up to the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction taking place in May and the World Reconstruction Conference in June.

The world is seeing its worst humanitarian crisis since 1945. Right now, over 20 million people are at risk of starvation.

We are at a crossroads.

The current food crisis can very easily be linked to changes in climate and a lack of resilient systems that can withstand drought, flood, changing rains and other impacts that are leaving people without crops, without money and without food to feed their families.

Immediate humanitarian aid is needed for hard-hit nations like Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. But the work does not stop there. We need to continue our efforts to build more climate-resilient nations, where changes in climate don't spell disaster and leave children starving, where proactive - rather than reactive - steps are taken to support vulnerable people in breaking the cycle of poverty, and where leaders and institutions have the capacity, skills, training and resources they need to make sure humanitarian crises like this do not repeat themselves.

UNDP supports nations in building these resilient systems – an essential step in building a zero-carbon future – without poverty, without hunger and without inequality.

This work is happening from the ground up. Currently UNDP technical specialists are working with national governments, civil society and communities to develop innovative climate change adaptation proposals for the Adaptation Fund, the Global Environment Facility’s Least Developed Countries Fund, the Green Climate Fund and other funding vehicles that provide much-needed relief for nations hit hard by the fast-acting impacts of climate change.

The newest slate of project proposals for the Global Environment Facility will enhance resilience, support climate-smart economies, protect vulnerable Small Island Developing States, scale up successes and create opportunities for vulnerable communities in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Kiribati, Liberia, Niger and Pacific Island Least Developed Countries.

With funding from the GEF Least Developed Countries Fund, the Government of Ethiopia is also ready to launch a project to mainstream climate risks into national and sub-national planning processes. This will increase the resilience of local communities across the Ethiopian highlands to climate change.

An estimated 5.6 million people are in need of immediate relief in Ethiopia, where a prolonged drought, exacerbated by El Niño, has killed hundreds of thousands of animals, which pastoralists depend on to feed their families and protect their futures.

The future of climate change adaptation will require innovative, ground-breaking projects that connect ecosystems with economies, donor-support vehicles with private-sector finance, innovation with country-driven approaches, adaptation with mitigation, and disaster risk reduction strategies with at-risk communities.

The world is at a crossroads. If we choose the right path, we can avoid repeated humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa and other vulnerable regions.

The whole way, UNDP will be there to support nations in achieving their goals of empowered citizens, zero poverty, zero hunger and a global zero-carbon future.