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Fighting climate change in the world’s poorest countries

Fighting climate change in the world’s poorest countries

In 2020, swarms of desert locusts descended on northern Kenya in the country’s worst locust infestation in 70 years. They ate crops and threatened the food security of 3 million people. Locusts brought similar devastation to some of the poorest countries in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, as governments and communities braced for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why did this rare and widespread (and ongoing) infestation occur? The extent and intensity of this locust plague have been linked to climate change – the result of powerful cyclones in the Arabian Peninsula and heavy rains vegetating normally dry areas where locusts breed. Cyclonic winds helped the surging swarms travel to East Africa. Even as Kenya and other countries grappled with the pandemic, climate change added another layer of risk – and one that is expected to intensify in the future and hit the most vulnerable people the hardest.

Today, after 25 years of progress reducing global poverty, we are at a precarious moment. Poverty is on the rise. The pandemic is estimated to have increased the number of people living in extreme poverty by 88 million to 115 million in 2020 alone. Climate change could push up to 132 million additional people into poverty by 2030.

The world cannot get back on track reducing poverty without rising to the challenges of climate change. We must help the poorest countries adapt and become more resilient. This effort is not just about building dikes and cyclone shelters, but about improving the well-being of people – their health, education, access to clean water, sanitation, and jobs – as well as protecting biodiversity and the ecosystems that sustain lives and economies.

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