We need cash to adapt, Kenyan slum dwellers tell COP26 president

by Nita Bhalla | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Saturday, 27 March 2021 11:27 GMT

Faith Ondiek, member of the DARAJA project, talks to COP26 President Alok Sharma in Kibera informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya on March 26, 2021. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Nita Bhalla

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Only a fifth of global climate finance contributions have so far gone towards adaptation, with most support focused on cutting greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries.

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* COP26 President Alok Sharma visits Kenya slum to highlight climate adaptation

* DARAJA project provides easy-to-understand weather forecasts to residents in local languages

* Residents say they need more funds to cope with climate shifts

By Nita Bhalla

NAIROBI, March 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Rich countries must provide more finance to help the poor cope with the impact of global warming, residents of Kenya's biggest informal settlement told the president of the COP26 global climate talks as he visited on Friday.

Alok Sharma, president of the United Nations conference, was visiting a community-led project in Nairobi's flood-prone Kibera settlement that provides easy-to-understand weather forecasts via SMS, WhatsApp and radio.

"The climate has changed a lot. We experience heavy rains more and this brings flooding which damages houses, brings diseases to our children and causes deaths," said Faith Ondiek, a weather forecast provider or 'Weather Mtaani' leader with the DARAJA project.

"The message we want the president to take back to global leaders is that we are doing what we can to deal with climate change, but we need help. The rich nations must contribute some funds so we can improve our lives in the face of this threat."

Residents cross a bridge in Kibera informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya on March 26, 2021. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Nita Bhalla

Sharma said Britain would place adaptation and resilience "front and centre" during its presidency of COP as he praised the forecasting project.

"Globally as extreme weather events become more frequent and more severe we need to build resilience among the most vulnerable communities," Sharma said in a statement.

Governments will submit updated national action plans to reduce planet-warming emissions and adapt to a hotter climate ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November.

Sharma's visit aimed to show that COP26 was not just focused on the West bringing down their carbon emissions, but also on garnering the finance so that countries like Kenya could adapt, said a British official.

Ministers from a number of countries will meet virtually next Wednesday ahead of the summit to identify practical next steps for climate vulnerable communities.

Members of the DARAJA project talks to COP26 President Alok Sharma in Kibera informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya on March 26, 2021. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Nita Bhalla

BUILDING RESILIENCE

Developed countries agreed at the United Nations in 2009 to jointly contribute $100 billion each year from 2020 in climate finance to poorer countries, many of which are grappling with rising seas, storms and droughts made worse by climate change.

But only a fifth of global contributions have so far gone towards adaptation, with most support focused on cutting greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries.

Adaptation action includes everything from expanding green space in cities to prevent floods and moving coastal communities to safer places to capturing rainwater, providing storm warnings and giving farmers weather and crop advice via mobile phones.

In Kibera, a sprawling informal settlement housing more than 200,000 people living cheek-by-jowl in makeshift homes, the change in weather patterns - in particular increased rainfall over a shorter period of time - has had a devastating impact.

Due to poor drainage and garbage collection, floods are a common occurrence - not only destroying homes and possessions, but also contaminating drinking water and even causing deaths through building collapses, electrocutions and drownings.

DARAJA provides localised weekly forecasts from the Kenya Meteorological Department, which are translated into Kiswahili and local slang Sheng and sent out daily via SMS, WhatsApp and radio.

Residents cross a bridge in Kibera informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya on March 26, 2021. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Nita Bhalla

The forecasts provide actionable information, telling residents to avoid a particular route as it may be flooded, or advising parents not let children play near the river as heavy rains are expected.

The Mtaani leaders also organise clean-ups of the river and drainage areas, ensure electrical cables are out of harm's way, and advise residents to add waterproofing materials to their homes when heavy rains are forecast.

"The DARAJA project has been an effective way to get the information out," said Pascaline Chemaiyo, principal meteorologist at the Kenya Meteorological Department.

"The project has formally finished, but the team members are still continuing the work as the community have found it very helpful and it has helped to make them more climate resilient."

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(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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