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Irish aid worker says empathy needed over climate impacts

An Irish aid worker has called for more empathy from countries in the Global North when responding to climate change as millions experience food insecurity in Malawi.

Conor Kelly, who is from Clane, Co Kildare, moved to Malawi in 2019 to work as Trocaire’s programme manager in the country. The charity says that 2.3 million people have limited access to food and more than 3.8 million people – or 20% of the population – face critical food insecurity.

“If there was 1 million people food insecure in Ireland, I think you’d see a lot of action taken, while the fact the people are food insecure in Malawi due to climate change, it maybe doesn’t bring about the action as quickly,” Mr Kelly told the Press Association.

“I do think there’s a need for more urgency around some of the work we’re doing around reducing our emissions, making more commitments around climate financing and showing more empathy. I think that’s something people would like to see more of, that empathy and understanding of their issues and taking responsibility.”

Mr Kelly pointed to increased droughts, flooding, rising temperatures and “major disaster events” as growing issues for the people living in Malawi.

“It’s also causing people to move, more areas in the south are no longer possible to live in so people have to move. If you look in certain areas where there never used to be malaria, there now is because temperatures are increasing. These things don’t happen overnight, they happen over time.”

Severe weather events are a growing issue in Malawi

Trocaire works with the Civil Society Network on Climate Change, an organisation for coordinating civil society initiatives for climate change management and disaster risk reduction, in Malawi.

Its national coordinator Julius Ng’oma says global action is needed urgently.

“In the past four years alone, we’ve seen a new phenomenon of cyclones which are causing havoc. Thousands of people have died. Homes, schools and roads have been destroyed. Over five and a half million people have been displaced in Malawi by these cyclones in recent years.

“Cyclone Freddy which hit Malawi in February 2023 caused a dire food shortage as most people lost their livelihoods. The drought and floods are also affecting people’s access to clean water, which also has a knock-on effect on agriculture. These are the current lived impacts of climate change.”

Mr Kelly, who is working with Trocaire to build resilient communities in Malawi and provide support during natural disasters, says that things will continue to get worse unless action is taken on a global scale.

“Over the next year we expect the number of food insecure people to reach 8 million so that will have a huge impact on the communities we work with and also Malawi as a whole as it tries to develop.”

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