The post-flood food crisis for millions of Africans
The toll of climate-fueled disasters in the Global South is a focal point at COP27 as developing nations push for loss and damage financing.
The big picture: Climate change is contributing to an increase in heavier rainfall and has been linked to more intense flood events, creating "hotspots" in regions of Africa where flooding and rising food insecurity collide.
Driving the news: A study recently published in the journal PNAS found that flood events experienced in some African nations between 2009 and 2020 impacted food security for roughly 5.6 million people across the continent.
What they found: At least 12% of the food insecure populations analyzed in more than a dozen nations in West, East and South Africa experienced immediate and/or lasting impacts following a flood.
- Parts of South Sudan, Malawi and Nigeria were among the areas in the African continent most at risk of flood events impacting food security.
- While post-flood impacts often worsened food security in the regions studied, researchers found that in some cases they actually stabilized food security for an area.
- The reasons for this vary, but may include climate-resilient infrastructure and disaster response that minimized the impacts on food access, according to Sonali McDermid, an associate professor of environmental studies at New York University who co-authored the study.
- "We need to split our efforts and our resources between looking at mitigation, which is really falling on industrialized, wealthy countries, and adaptation, which is something that really needs to be better resourced across the Global South," McDermid tells Axios.
Speaking from COP27, Emtithal Mahmoud, a goodwill ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency and former Sudanese refugee, tells Axios her family has been deeply affected by the impacts of climate change.
- "I remember learning for the first time that one of the side effects of drought is flooding, " Mahmoud said. "When there's drought during the dry season, and then the rainy season comes, everything floods."
- She's seen firsthand how extreme weather events have led to food and water shortages across Sudan — where flooding recently impacted at least 258,000 people, further worsening the nation's food insecurity, which affects more than 10 million.
- "Because of the effects of climate change, some of them [the rivers] that people rely on every single rainy season, don't fill with water anymore. They're permanently dry now."
Zoom out: Parts of West and Central Africa are reeling following torrential floods that have damaged farms and destroyed harvests, further threatening food production and access already strained by conflict and the pandemic.
- At least 40 million people in the region were considered food insecure before the floods, Reuters reports.
And yet, only 3% of public climate finance, or $9.3 billion, has gone to food systems every year since 2016, according to an October analysis by the Global Alliance for the Future of Food.
- "Climate finance is still far from where it needs to be," Aly Abousabaa — regional director of Central and West Asia and North Africa for CGIAR and director general of ICARDA — tells Axios from COP27.
- Abousabaa says scaling financing in climate-resilient infrastructure and agricultural and food systems, particularly for African nations facing rising food insecurity, should be a priority at the summit.
State of play: So far, negotiators have failed to reach an agreement on a new mandate for the next phase of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture — the only formal mechanism that considers agriculture and food security in the context of climate change at COP27.
- And Friday saw the summit launch of the Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation Initiative, or FAST, a UN-led program aimed to scale climate finance for food systems by 2030.
Meanwhile: COP27 discussions on loss and damage financing continue this week, which a handful of wealthier countries have pledged millions toward, while Germany and other G7 countries revealed plans on Monday for a disaster aid insurance program.
- "Maybe one or two countries will make some token announcements, nothing at all compared to what we actually need to compensate for loss and damage," Abousabaa tells Axios. "But, of course, rain always starts with a drop."