(Photo: Darfurian refugees in Eastern Chad, in the camp’s maternity waiting room)
In the next 80 years, it is possible that one-fifth of the world’s population will have been displaced due to rising ocean waters. This prediction is based on a worst-case scenario, but as we recently watched the real-time displacement of a city of 6.6 million people in Houston, I ask, isn’t this what we should be planning for? This is no longer some fantasy sci-fi film; it’s real, and the people being displaced are here to stay.
Some things to consider regarding the reality facing women under the duress of climate change:
- 80% of the world’s refugees are women and children
- Food security is a serious concern for two-thirds of the world’s women
- 70% of women in the world live on less than $2 a day
- 35% of women of reproductive age are anemic
- 46% of pregnant women are anemic
- Over 60% of children are stunted because of malnutrition
- Most rural households have little-to-no access to health care, education, clean drinking water, or sanitation, and most rural women live in extreme poverty
- Cultural prejudices against women mean they have less access to services, education, and health care, as well as food resources both in and out of the home
- Over 60% of women work agriculturally, but do so with archaic farming techniques that require intense labor.
I run an international humanitarian aid organization, Circle of Health International (COHI) that has worked for 14 years in 18 countries. We care for mothers and children in humanitarian crisis settings around the globe, so we have front row seats to the tragedy that climate change is enforcing on the world’s most vulnerable. Women and children have unique health and social needs putting them at elevated risk of infectious diseases, sexual violence, and malnutrition when they are displaced. Climate change is displacing women and children due to flooding, droughts, and rising seas all across the globe, and now, thanks to Hurricane Harvey, too many of these brave individuals are in Texas.
Every fall we have a fundraising campaign called In Her Shoes, and this year climate refugees figure prominently. The campaign has three ways to support: 1) join us as a participant for a three day nutritional challenge in which you live on the diet of a woman cared for by COHI and share your experience on social media, 2) donate $60, the amount of money it costs to feed a woman cared for by COHI in a place where we work, and 3) share news of the campaign with your network and community.
Climate change is real. It is happening now. It is not fake news. What we do with it, well, that’s up to us.