South Sudan: Climate change affects everyone
By Ida Sem Fossvik
It is important to seek solutions to displacement caused by climate change, because eventually it will affect all of us, says NORCAP-expert Yohannes Hagos Subagadis. This week he visits a political conference in Norway to talk about disaster risk reduction in Africa.
Subagadis currently works as a disaster risk reduction specialist in South Sudan, deployed to UNESCO in the capital, Juba. He is in charge of UNESCO's science-related activities, such as climate change adaptation, building resilience , disaster risk reduction from floods and drought, and teaching people how to make development sustainable over time.
"Poor living conditions and economic opportunities as a result of climate change, coupled with conflict, are pushing people to move to other parts of a country or abroad. Even though well-researched links between climate change and displacement have yet to be established, there are clear indications that climate-related disasters frequently are followed by slow-onset or rapid onset displacement both nationally and across international borders. This type of displacement must be addressed, both within the affected nations and through regional and international initiatives", he stresses.
Even though conflict-induced displacement is the most commonly reported form of displacement in South Sudan, Subagadis says climate-related challenges do have significant impact on displacement.
"South Sudan is very vulnerable to climate-related challenges. The main livelihood, rain-fed agriculture and livestock, are entirely dependent on the weather. Accelerating global climate change comes on top of that. Higher mean temperatures, longer dry seasons and heavier and more concentrated rains increase the suffering of communities", he says.
Reduce risk and strengthen resilience
Subagadis has worked in South Sudan since November last year. He believes it is of paramount importance to make the country and the population able to deal with the climatic changes.
"Vulnerable regions and countries are less able to cope and that is why we need to put them at the frontline of adaptation. They need to strengthen their resilience in order to better prepare for floods and droughts, but also reduce the risk of it happening", he explains.
This can be achieved by enabling responsible meteorological authorities to produce timely weather forecasts and communicate climate and weather information to those whose day-to-day decisions and actions impact and are impacted by climate-related disasters.
Protect, promote and prepare
Subagadis is a hydrologist by profession and chose his career after experiencing how changes in climate and weather made life increasingly difficult in his native Ethiopia.
"In parts of Ethiopia, including where I am from, the agriculture depends on the weather and the environment. It is common to hear local residents talk about how significantly the climate has changed throughout their lifetime. The drought is more frequent and in the places where it does rain, it often comes as flash floods which lead to land degradation", he says.
The NORCAP expert believes his work contributes to protecting natural resources and promoting sustainable usage of water resources, as well as preparing for threats such as floods, droughts and other climatic changes.
Subagadis will talk about climate change and displacement in Africa in the Norwegian conference called "Arendalsuka". Representatives from all political parties are present, and so are most non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations wanting to influence local and national politicians with the issues that are close to their hearts.
Subagadis thinks the conference will be a chance for him to educate Norwegians on the challenges many African countries are facing.
"I am exited to be a part of this seminar as it gives me an opportunity to share my experience as an expert and as a witness from the field. It is also a good way for me to understand how major donors such as Norway believe climate-related challenges should be addressed and how adapted interventions should be monitored and measured", he says.