Climate change has always been a topic of concern mainly because a lack of climate action can lead to environmental damage and human rights violations. For example, according to the 2022, Ibrahim Forum Report, food insecurity has affected 800 million people in Africa, and 281.6 million individuals are undernourished. Hence, prioritising climate mitigation and adaptation to protect fundamental human rights is of great importance.
Although Africa is not part of the most significant contributors of greenhouse gas emissions (with emissions of roughly 4%), it is the most affected by climate change; “the rate of Africa’s warming is 1.5 times faster than the global warming average”. This makes the continent vulnerable to erratic rainfall, extreme drought, desertification, and frequent flooding. In addition, due to unfortunate occurrences, problems such as human displacement, food insecurity, and the spread of illnesses become inevitable.
Geographically speaking, Zimbabwe is a country that has “limited water resources”. With the aggravating climate issue, water scarcity severely impacts the country. Thus, locals tend to resort to untreated or unsafe water resources. Drinking unpotable water is a health risk since it can result in various diseases such as hepatitis E, cholera, diarrhoea and parasitic infections. In fact, between 2008 and 2009, there was a mass cholera outbreak, and the simultaneous drought and inconsistent weather patterns exacerbated the latter.
Consequently, people migrate to escape the worsening situation in the country. Migration brings about several other predicaments for the locals. For instance, there is no assurance regarding food, water, and shelter. Education is interrupted by the constant fleeing, and socio-economic problems such as sexual abuse, violence, and discrimination become pertinent. Indeed, climate change has devastating effects on human rights as one violation leads to another; it works as a domino effect.
In the Sahel region, fishing and agriculture are the primary living sources. However, with climate change, people’s heads of living are significantly impacted. Studies have predicted that Mali’s agriculture capacity may decline by 30 to 40 per cent. Whereas in Senegal, fishing stocks may decrease by 80 per cent.
Additionally, it is fundamental to note that the level of vulnerability increases with existing political-economic tensions. For instance, Niger and South Sudan are suffering from ongoing problems with Boko Haram and civil war. Therefore, these people carry so much burden that enjoying their fundamental human rights becomes far-fetched.
Several efforts have been executed to limit the devastating impact of climate change; one of them is the #GreenJusticeAfrica initiative. The latter is a campaign that “focuses on the impact of climate change in Africa, through the lens of the existing degeneration of the fulfilment of the human rights of the most vulnerable.” In addition, the infamous Paris Agreement tackled climate change “as an urgent and serious threat to humankind”. It sets up a universal rule for all countries that signed this agreement by limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.
In conclusion, climate action should be prioritized both in the public and private sphere, and it is essential to do so because not only does it negatively impact the environment as a whole, but rather it affects our human rights. It is not merely about protecting the present generation but also about preserving future generations. Let us save Mother Earth before it’s too late!
Addaney, M., Boshoff, E., & Olutola, B. (2017). THE CLIMATE CHANGE AND HUMAN RIGHTS NEXUS IN AFRICA. Amsterdam Law Forum. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://amsterdamlawforum.org/articles/10.37974/ALF.304/
Khumalo, S. (n.d.). #greenjusticeafrica: The impact of climate change on the protection and fulfilment of human rights in Africa. Home – Centre for Human Rights. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.chr.up.ac.za/campaigns/greenjusticeafrica
Nonjinge, G. (2022, November 2). Climate change adaptation in Africa: A human rights perspective. PreventionWeb. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.preventionweb.net/news/climate-change-adaptation-africa-human-rights-perspective
Report: How climate change affects the human rights of sahel region migrants. OHCHR. (2021, November 11). Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.ohchr.org/en/stories/2021/11/report-how-climate-change-affects-human-rights-sahel-region-migrants