Global Emergency Update July 2024

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Global Emergency Update: Helping Communities Survive Climate Change

smiling child in Madagascar

CRS helped vulnerable families in Madagascar rebuild their homes after Cyclone Ava in 2018.

Photo by David Snyder/CRS

OVERVIEW

Climate change is causing severe challenges worldwide, especially for people in need. It leads to unpredictable weather, more storms and longer droughts, destroying lives and livelihoods. Catholic Relief Services witnesses these effects everywhere we work and is deeply concerned about the devastating impact climate change is having on families and communities who are least responsible yet most affected by it.

Combatting the effects of climate change is an integral part of CRS’ Vision 2030 strategy, as we seek to create a world where humankind prospers in harmony with our natural environment. One of our strategic priorities is to ensure that people affected by crises like climate change have safe and dignified homes and communities. We work to ensure people living in poverty—those most impacted by climate change—can manage risks, recover, adapt and build their resilience in the face of this escalating threat.

flood in Pakistan

In 2022, Pakistan was devastated by flash floods. More than 1,000 people lost their lives, 800,000 cattle were killed and 1 million houses were washed away.

Photo courtesy of Caritas Pakistan

SUPPORTING RESILIENCE

The increased intensity of disasters caused by climate change is destroying homes and causing people to flee their communities at unprecedented rates. The World Bank estimates that up to 216 million people could be forced to migrate by 2050—and all these people will need to find new homes.

In recent disasters, flooding caused by heavier than normal monsoon rains and melting glaciers damaged 2 million homes in Pakistan, and homes across southern Africa were washed away by unprecedented flooding. Meanwhile, drought continues to contribute to a food crisis and displacement in East Africa and the Sahel, and storms like Hurricane Beryl are growing stronger and more dangerous.

Safe homes are the first step for uprooted families to rebuild their lives and are essential to reducing the danger of future climate-driven disasters. CRS is committed to providing the growing number of displaced people with access to comprehensive shelter solutions that enable families and communities to recover and flourish—and adapt to an ever-changing and increasingly unstable environment. We support vulnerable communities to prepare for crises before they strike, alleviate impact and loss, and strengthen resilience for the long term—working alongside families to build and rebuild homes and communities in environmentally responsible ways.

CRS recognizes the interconnection of the spiritual, human, social, political, financial, natural and physical aspects of people’s lives. Disaster risk reduction and preparedness has been at the center of our comprehensive housing reconstruction programming for decades. Our goal has always been to accompany communities along their journey of recovery with holistic support to increase their resilience.

woman in Guatemala

CRS helped Mercedes rebuild her home in Guatemala after it was destroyed by hurricanes Eta and Iota in 2020. The home was built using low-cost hurricane resilient techniques, including concrete blocks and boards for walls and a concrete floor.

Photo by Emilio Monzon/CRS

HURRICANE BERYL

The need to build safe homes and support communities to become more resilient has never been more urgent. Hurricane Beryl, which cut a path of destruction across the Caribbean this month, made history as the earliest Category 5 hurricane on record.

In its aftermath, Catholic Relief Services is supporting local partners in recovery efforts across Mexico, Jamaica, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada, which suffered some of the heaviest impacts. Three people have been reported killed in Grenada, three in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, three in Venezuela and two in Jamaica.

In Grenada, an estimated 1,600 people are in shelters. That number is expected to double, as 95% of buildings are damaged or destroyed. What started as a Category 5 storm devastated Grenada’s Carriacou island after making landfall on July 1, bringing surges and strong winds.

Across affected areas, homes and infrastructure are severely damaged from heavy rains, winds, flooding and landslides. Fallen trees have cut power lines. The communities most impacted are those in low lying areas—due to the flash floods and high swells—as well as those in high mountainous areas, where strong winds caused major damage.

hurricane damage in Grenada

Hurricane Beryl devastated the island country of Grenada.

Photo courtesy of Caritas Grenada

CRS and Partner Response

CRS is working with our Caritas partners to provide immediate assistance, with plans to help families and communities in their longer-term rebuilding and recovery.

In Grenada

CRS partner Caritas Grenada quickly established an operations center and storage facility in the parish hall of Hillsborough, on the island of Carriacou. The hall has enough space for staff members and volunteers to camp in the lower floor. Caritas Grenada, with CRS support, is working to immediately assist 400 families—approximately 1,600 people—with shelter, supplies and water, sanitation and hygiene kits, while Caritas Antilles delivers pre-positioned water supplies, including water filters, solar lanterns and tarps. Several members of the Caritas Antilles youth volunteer group will travel to the Diocese of Kingstown to support the distribution of these items.. CRS is also supporting Caritas Grenada and Caritas Antilles with communication efforts so people may quickly report safety concerns and receive information about available assistance.

Across the Region

CRS and our partners across affected areas will deliver support tailored to the local context. Priorities include:

  • Provision of shelter supplies, bedding, tarps and other key materials for emergency protection from the elements, as well as equipment and support for shelter providers to care for those who have taken refuge.
  • Cash assistance and direct distribution of food and critical items.
  • Hygiene kits and sanitation supplies for families, information to prevent illness and access to clean water.
  • Support for families to repair and rebuild their homes and for communities to restore their infrastructure.

ESSENTIAL PRACTICES

CRS and our partners have provided emergency relief and support for more than 2 million refugees, internally displaced people, asylum seekers and climate migrants across the world over the past 10 years. With over 80 years of experience across more than 120 countries, we have built rich partnerships at the grassroots, national and international levels, and developed innovative practices that are replicated worldwide for greater reach, efficiency and lasting impact.

rebuilding in the Philippines

After Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013, CRS supported the reconstruction of 20,000 homes. In December 2014, the homes withstood a typhoon and tropical storm with minimal damage.

Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS

As a leader in the field, and through our experience implementing shelter projects across more than 65 countries—directly supporting 300,000 people each year on average—we have identified the following best practices for building safe, dignified, and resilient homes and communities. These 10 essentials are at the heart of our recovery and adaptation work and are necessary for building homes and communities that can not only survive, but thrive, in the face of growing climate risks.

  • Incorporate local practices and preferences in shelter design and construction, respecting local priorities for what makes a home, to empower communities, build on existing strengths and capacities and increase the likelihood of uptake and replication.
  • Use local materials, working through local vendors, to the maximum extent possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, bolster the local economy and contribute to cost-effectiveness and ease of maintenance and repair.
  • Incorporate simple, low-cost, disaster risk reduction design elements that are responsive to local conditions. For example, houses destroyed by floods should be rebuilt with raised foundations, overhanging roofs and community-managed drainage systems.
  • Work with and train local artisans, craftspeople, carpenters and masons to ensure sustainability, replication and ease of maintenance. Employ these trainees to build model homes to support the significant number of families who will manage their own recovery.
  • Allow for homeowner adjustments and incremental enhancements over time to promote a transition to permanent housing.
  • Engage, consult and promote women’s voices and ownership at all stages of design and implementation.
  • Use a sliding-scale approach, in which the most vulnerable families receive the most intensive, hands-on support, while other families receive cash, supplies and technical assistance, but handle most of the construction themselves. This approach maximizes ownership, agency and creativity, while adhering to design essentials and ensuring the most vulnerable people aren’t left behind.
  • Work closely with local government throughout the design, implementation and monitoring phases to:
  • Maintain compliance with local building codes.
  • Ensure participants receive fair compensation.
  • Receive access to government materials, equipment or resources for enhanced cost efficiency.
  • Increase overall impact by influencing government housing standards and policies.
  • Take a comprehensive, area-based approach to address issues of health, utility provision, livelihoods and education—components that are critical to the success or failure of homes and communities and for recovery and resilience.
  • Uphold privacy, dignity, mental health and cultural sensitivity in a post-disaster context.
  • crowd around van in Philippines

    Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines. Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, killed more than 6,000 people in the Philippines in 2013.

    Photo by Kim Pozniak/CRS


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