Africa is lost, damaged by historical injustices

A boda boda operator wades through a flooded village at Mishomoroni in Kisauni after heavy rains within the coastal region. [File, Standard]

Can we please have a moment of silence for the many lives lost in climate disasters in the last few months in the Horn of Africa and globally?

Pray for that unhealthy, hungry child that has dropped out of school; that woman forced into single-parent as her husband searches for pasture for their livestock; this same man who is likely to fight with a fellow herder over that little water or pasture. If he is killed, his children and wife not only lose a father/husband, but also his love, care and a lot more that money can't buy. Think of refugees forced to cross borders due to hunger.

In Kenya, drought has claimed livestock and game in the parks. How will the Tourism sector sustain itself and the economy; the work force and the heritage! How much is heritage? Even if these businesses were to be insured, who pays?

At the COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, the mood has been mixed. First, it was a celebration when the contentious “Loss and Damage” made it to a COP27 agenda decades since the first country (Vanuatu) attempted this push in 1991, albeit with a rider that the justice bit of the agenda be left out, and that conclusions on the matter be deferred.

Loss and Damage is the pain and loss undergone when adaptation limits are exceeded. The UN defines ‘Adaptation’ as “adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts. It refers to changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change.”

Who pays for loss and sufferings of people when adaptation can no longer hold? Poor women and children are paying for the loss and damage with their own dignity, and this is being normalised. Since the Global South has also been pushing for the reparation of at least $100 billion yearly by the biggest carbon emitters and Adaptation Fund, there is now a push for a compromise.

And so, is the Global South justified to ask for more funding?

Yes. Africa has a negligible carbon footprint, yet it suffers most, even with adaptation measures in place. These calamities are not natural, but a result of fossil fuels-powered development in the Global North. This is historical injustice, yet the justice bit would not be allowed at the COP27. That, in essence, is forcing the Global South to forget history and move on. It is colonialism. The naturalisation of the climate disasters is intentional, wrong, and an abuse of intellect. It is by design that these extreme weather events are called natural disasters. This needs to change to remove any gaps or misunderstandings, especially among the most affected.

Secondly, since the trend is clear, it is by asking many times that the Global South will finally get something to deal with the climate stresses that exceed adaptation limits. Since the man-made climate crisis affects the poor more than the culprits, it should not be a matter of which, between Adaptation and Loss and Damage; COP27 should establish a mechanism to cover both, and hasten implementation.

Loss and Damage is denying women and children rights to be who they truly are. It is injustice. Communities are forcefully losing their identity as pastoralists, farmers or business people. These cannot be quantified and money may never fill the void. There is no one-fits-all solution to this crisis. But polluters must be made to pay. Besides, we must not allow any new fossil fuel projects in Africa, and globally.

Lynet Otieno is the GreenFaith Interim Communications Manager. [email protected]