Spread too thin – Climate Weekly

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A building is destroyed by the earthquake in Erçis, southern Turkey (Photo credit: EU civil protection and humanitarian aid)


This week’s devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria wasn’t caused by climate change. But it is another strain on a humanitarian system which, because of climate change and rich countries’ stinginess, is spread too thin.

More and more people are needing help as climate change makes storms, floods, droughts and heatwaves worse. Alongside that, there are the regular disasters – the earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, wars, pandemics and terrorist attacks.

But the supply of help isn’t keeping up with demand. We published a deep dive this week into how cutbacks at the United Nations hindered the international community’s response to the floods in Pakistan.

Six months on from the rains, about 200,000 people are still displaced, a harvest has been missed, winter has come and malaria is rife. “Humanitarians have failed in this disaster”, Islamic Relief’s Pakistan chief told us.

That’s not surprising as the UN agency tasked with coordinating the international response had just seven people working for it in Pakistan when floods hit – down from 35 in 2016.

They scrambled in staff from other countries when disaster struck. The same people are probably off to Turkey now. They’ll be somewhere else next. But the UN shouldn’t have to play whack-a-mole when people’s lives are at stake.

This week’s stories

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