Two months after Idai, Islamic Relief Canada urges action on climate change

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(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

It has been more than two months since Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique. Recovery efforts are only beginning.

And as that effort was getting underway, the same region was hit again on April 25 by Cyclone Kenneth, bringing up the death toll from both powerful storms to over 1,000.

Cyclone Idai, which was one of the worst tropical storms on record in the southern hemisphere, killed hundreds and left many thousands missing. In all, an estimated 3 million people have been significantly affected in Idai’s aftermath.

Idai struck just before the harvest season, flooding some of the region’s most fertile land with salty water, and has thus set the stage for what could become a severe food security crisis. And with the floodwater finally receding into the Indian Ocean, over 2,000 cases of cholera have been reported in the affected areas.

Then there is the damage to infrastructure in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Madagascar, three of which were already designated by the UN to be among the world’s least developed countries. According to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), the situation in Mozambique is a “level-three emergency” — in the same category as the deadly conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

As we might expect, many Canadians were eager to help those affected by Cyclone Idai. And we at Islamic Relief Canada are grateful to so many Canadians who continue to trust us to be the conduit through which they can deliver aid — and hope — to those in need in an effective way.

As Canada’s largest Muslim charity, Islamic Relief Canada is privileged to serve as part of the Humanitarian Coalition (HC), a group of leading Canadian charities which had agencies on the ground providing relief almost immediately after the disaster began. In the days that followed, HC was able to secure a pledge from the Canadian government to match all funds raised for survivors between March 15 and April 14, 2019.

This campaign has raised over $200,000, not including the government’s contribution. The funds raised in this way are being used to provide safe drinking water, food, hygiene kits (to prevent illness and infection), first aid kits, tarps, and other life-saving essentials.

But beyond our efforts to provide emergency relief to those who were affected, we are reminded that there is another aspect of this situation that we all need to take serious action on: climate change.

Many climate experts have said that rising ocean temperatures and sea levels are contributing to the disastrous strength of storms such as Idai and Kenneth. Since recording began, cyclones this severe have never hit Mozambique, and now they have struck twice in the same season.

Those of us that do humanitarian relief work get to see first-hand the consequences of the global community’s shortcomings in addressing climate change. We should be at the forefront of calling for more research and spreading awareness about the horrible consequences of climate change that we are already seeing in the field.

Hassam Munir is part of the External Relations at Islamic Relief Canada.

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