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Over 50 million people around the world have simultaneously suffered from COVID-19 and climate-related weather disasters like floods, droughts, extreme heat, and storms, a confronting report has unveiled.

Findings released Thursday by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) show that of the 132 recorded weather-related calamities this year, 92 have coincided with the complex health and socio-economic challenges presented by the pandemic. 

Over 3,000 people have been killed by the overlapping crises. 

Red Cross Adviser Julie Arrighi said COVID-19 is also delaying recovery efforts for those affected by weather events.  

Arrighi explained the pandemic is complicating efforts to move people to safe spaces, hindering attempts to disperse food and recovery equipment, disrupting global supply chains, and increasing the need for financial humanitarian aid when many countries are facing recessions for the first time in decades.

"While not all climate-related disasters have a direct link with climate change, it is unequivocal that due to global warming we are facing a more volatile climate with more weather extremes,” Arrighi said in a statement. “COVID-19 has exposed our vulnerabilities like never before and, as our preliminary analysis shows, compounded suffering for millions of people affected by climate-related disasters.”

The vast majority, around 80%, of individuals hit by the intersecting disasters live in the Asia-Pacific region.

Between July and September, extreme heat events impacted over 145 million people throughout East Asia and the Pacific, while storms in Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka in May affected 15 million individuals.

"These new figures confirm what we already knew from our dedicated volunteers on the frontlines: the climate crisis has not stopped for COVID-19, and millions of people have suffered from the two crises colliding,” IFRC President Francesco Rocca explained. 

The report praises the “unprecedented” global collaboration and funds devoted toward reducing the pandemic’s impact.

Rocca highlighted, however, that enormous funding gaps exist when it comes to the fight against climate change. He has called on world leaders to acknowledge that it is impossible to deal with the pandemic without also addressing the climate crisis and broader issues like extreme poverty. 

"The massive global investment in recovering from the pandemic proves governments can act decisively and drastically in the face of imminent global threats,” Rocca stated. “We urgently need this same energy on climate, and it is critical that the recovery from COVID-19 is green, resilient, and inclusive if we are to safeguard the world’s most vulnerable communities.”

Rocca added: “We have had absolutely no choice but to address both crises simultaneously.”


Defeat Poverty

Over 50 Million People Dually Affected by COVID-19 and Climate Disasters

By Madeleine Keck