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COP27: The climate crisis is a health and humanitarian crisis

07 Nov 22 | 15 Nov 22
This article is more than one year old

COP27: The climate crisis is a health and humanitarian crisis

A 'tent city' in Sindh, Pakistan, where many families are sheltering following devastating floods Caption
A 'tent city' in Sindh, Pakistan, where many families are sheltering following devastating floods

Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is participating as an official observer at the United Nations climate conference – known as COP27 – in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

The goal for COP27 ranges from a transition toward renewable energy to financial support to vulnerable communities most affected by climate change.

Officially known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 27th Conference of the Parties, the event will run from 6-18 November.

Crises made worse by climate change

MSF responds to urgent medical and humanitarian crises in more than 70 countries.

Our teams are providing medical care to those who are experiencing the health impacts of the climate emergency, many of whom are the least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

In multiple countries where MSF works, such as Mozambique, Somalia, Cameroon, South Sudan, Madagascar, and Pakistan, our medical humanitarian teams are responding to medical emergencies that are worsened by climate change.

We are seeing increased transmission of infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and cholera as stagnant water and mosquitoes can fuel the spread of vector-borne and waterborne illnesses. 

We are also witnessing an increased lack of access to safe drinking water and food insecurity which can lead to malnutrition, and extreme heat exposure that can lead to dehydration and mental health impacts.

The climate crisis is a health and humanitarian crisis. 

MSF at COP27

“Today, needs are already outstripping the response. This is a crisis of solidarity, and it is now giving way to a crisis of morality. The world cannot leave those suffering the most tragic consequences without support,” says Stephen Cornish, Director General of MSF Switzerland. 

“Today, we are reviewing our operational strategies to strengthen emergency preparedness," continues Stephen.

"[We are] adapting our activities to the realities of climate change, which will enable us to continue to provide the best care for our patients and deliver assistance where it is most needed.”

Concrete political action

Recognising the need for collective action against climate change, MSF signed the Climate and Environment Charter for Humanitarian Organizations and a joint statement with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. 

The Charter and joint statement aim to motivate and guide action plans against climate change, especially for the most vulnerable communities.  

Read the climate charter

Only concrete political action to implement solutions to limit climate change can prevent the humanitarian consequences. 

Humanitarian organisations respond to crises regardless of the cause. But their efforts in responding will not make up for the failures to adequately respond to these crises by our political leaders. We all have an important role to play.

MSF and the climate emergency

The climate emergency is also a healthcare emergency. When extreme weather events occur, it is the most vulnerable people who suffer the most.

This crisis isn’t only about the catastrophic cyclones and typhoons that hit the headlines. This is about the spread of deadly diseases that can follow. The increasing risk of drought and famine. Of rising water levels. Desertification. The mass displacement of people from their homes…

In every way, climate change is a major humanitarian emergency.