World Humanitarian Day is observed annually on August 19; with each year’s observance focused on a theme aimed at bringing together partners from across the humanitarian system to advocate for the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crises, and for the safety and security of aid workers. This year’s theme, “The Human Race”, is intended to draw focus on the immediate human cost of the current climate crisis and the immediate consequences of this climate emergency for the world’s most vulnerable people, in a bid to ensure that their voices are heard and allowed to promote meaningful climate actions.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has noted that Climate Change continues to impact human lives and health across the globe, threatening the essential ingredients of good health – clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food supply, and safe shelter – and even more worrying is the fact that it has the potential to undermine decades of progress in global health. Between 2030 and 2050, Climate Change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress alone; the sad reality is that those who have contributed least to this global climate emergency will be the ones to be hit the hardest by these impacts.
It is no secret that Guyana is highly vulnerable to the effects of Climate Change with approximately 90% of our population and 75% of the country’s economic activities existing along the Low Coastal Plain, an area which lies approximately 0.5 to 1 metre below mean sea level. More worrying is that the country has already begun to experience impacts of increases in frequency and intensity of natural hazards, particularly hydrometeorological phenomenon, having seen several occurrences of extreme flooding due to heavy rainfall across all Regions over the last few years; the most recent example is the flood of May – June of this year (2021) which affected a total of 51,622. households across all ten (10) Administrative Regions. Extensive losses of agricultural produce (both crops and livestock) and arable land were experienced, many persons were (and some continue to be) displaced from their homes, and health, water, sanitation, and hygiene conditions were excessively compromised, all occurring during the country’s battle with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Regions 2, 5, 6, 7 and 10 were hit hardest, with Regional capacities having been surpassed. Considering this, and through the powers conferred upon the Head of State by Article 99 of the Constitution, the President, His Excellency Dr. Mohammed Irfaan Ali declared a national disaster in the Co-operative Republic of Guyana by virtue of flooding on June 9, 2021.
Our local experiences, and those of our neighbours across the globe, continue to remind us that time is of the essence as millions of people are already losing their lives, their homes, and their livelihoods to Climate Change impacts. The Office of the Prime Minister, and by extension, the Government of Guyana, is therefore proud to join with the international community today in the commemoration of another observance of World Humanitarian Day. More importantly, I take this fitting opportunity to iterate the Government of Guyana’s commitment to continue meaningful climate action for the world’s most vulnerable people by ensuring that those most vulnerable within our local populace are adequately protected through the adoption of robust systems for local hazard management and greater involvement of vulnerable populations and communities in preparedness and response activities, in addition to the decision-making for priorities for frontline response. The United Nations Secretary General noted that, “The solutions are clear. Inclusive and green economies, prosperity, cleaner air, and better health are possible for all if we respond to this crisis with solidarity and courage.” The Government of Guyana is committed to fostering the achievement of these solutions. As such, we are dedicated to taking immediate action towards sustainable and renewable energy, effective early warning systems, and greater investments in adaptation and resilience financing, to ensure that those most vulnerable and the entire Guyanese populace at large live safe lives where climate catastrophes are averted at all costs.