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UNHCR commits to climate action in Africa to protect displaced populations and foster resilience

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UNHCR commits to climate action in Africa to protect displaced populations and foster resilience

5 September 2023 Also available in:
A woman and her young child stand in the entrance of a makeshift shelter.

Hajira Abdullaji, 33, in the shelter she shares with her children in Kenya's Dadaab refugee settlement after leaving Somalia last year to escape the worst drought in decades.

GENEVA – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, reaffirms its dedication to climate action as a central element of its mission to address displacement and provide protection to vulnerable populations in Africa.

UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Raouf Mazou, and Director General and Special Representative of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), Ambassador Majid Al Suwaidi, travelled to Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex in advance of this week’s Africa Climate Summit.

“UNHCR recognizes the unique vulnerabilities faced by forcibly displaced populations and host communities in Africa. We must act now to ensure that the most vulnerable, who bear the highest cost, are not left alone in their struggle and have their voices heard,” said Mazou.

In Dadaab, they witnessed the impact of climate change on refugees and host communities. Kenya continues to be among the top refugee-hosting countries in Africa and is heavily impacted by regional displacement crises. The country generously hosts more than 630,000 refugees and has witnessed increased cross-border movements due to intensifying climate shocks that have contributed to food insecurity, tensions, and cycles of conflict in neighbouring countries.

“The Dadaab refugee complex, which is one of the largest refugee settlements in the world, is a striking example of the urgent and interconnected challenges we face,” said Al Suwaidi during his visit. “Unpredictable weather patterns and the devastating Horn of Africa droughts have disrupted communities and livelihoods, pushing them to the brink of survival.

“The stories I have heard from refugees and host communities in Dadaab are a stark reminder of why we must continue to drive equitable and just climate action that leaves no one behind,” he added.

In the Horn of Africa, while rains finally came in May, the effects of a catastrophic drought –the worst in four decades –continue to impact the lives of millions of displaced and local communities in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.

Across the region, climate impacts continue to exacerbate the challenges vulnerable populations face with the combination of conflict and drought severely affecting their search for safety, basic necessities and a means to survive. Our responses across the region must factor in the impact of extreme weather events, such as the recurring droughts or floods attributed to climate change.

“UNHCR’s commitments are aligned with its overarching vision to create resilient, sustainable, and inclusive solutions for displaced populations across Africa. UNHCR is taking action to mobilize financing, enhance legal frameworks, strengthen data availability, reduce carbon emissions, and promote sustainable settlement, all with the aim of mitigating climate-related displacement and ensuring the well-being of affected populations,” said Mazou.

Funding for these commitments includes ongoing investments through the Refugee Environmental Protection (REP) Fund, which aims to support impactful reforestation and clean cooking programmes in refugee-hosting areas vulnerable to climate change. Moreover, UNHCR is dedicated to mobilizing further resources, with funding commitments of up to $500 million identified so far to integrate climate action within its programming across 24 African countries for the year 2024.

Ahead of the Global Refugee Forum and COP28 in December, UNHCR will collaborate with governments, regional bodies, partners and communities to forge a future where the impact of climate-related events on displacement is met with resilience, protection and solutions.

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The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.