(GIN)––As world leaders gather in Madrid, Spain, for one of the largest global conferences on the environment, a new report from the U.S.-based Save the Children Fund warns that real world impacts of climate change are threatening tens of millions of people in East and Southern Africa with what it terms “climate shock.” 

Floods, landslides, drought and cyclones have put 33 million people at emergency levels of food insecurity. More than half of these are believed to be children, the report says. 

Another study, by the United Nations, also released this week, highlighted the urgent need for aggressive policies to curb emissions.

“We have to learn from our procrastination. Any further delay brings the need for larger, more expensive and unlikely cuts,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, wrote in the report titled “Emissions Gap Report 2019.” “We cannot afford to fail.” 

“People think this climate change thing is a joke,” said an exasperated broadcaster on Nigeria’s ChannelTV.  “They should come and ask us in Nigeria. We’ve seen rains like we’ve never seen before and heat like we’ve never seen before.” 

Climate change was most recently evident in Kenya where more than 100 people died as a result of mudslides and floods occasioned by heavy rains across the country in the last two months. 

Government spokesman Cyrus Oguna said 350,000 people were in dire need of assistance. 

“The whole country has been affected by the downpour. Roads, bridges and other infrastructure have been destroyed,” Oguna told journalists in Kapenguria, West Pokot county. 

Botswana, taking pro-active measures, says it will be developing a drought management strategy making drought a permanent feature of the national budget rather than an emergency. 

Malawi will be among five African countries invited to attend the Madrid conference. Ellen Matupi, chair of the Coalition of Women Farmers in Malawi who has felt the effects of climate change first-hand will attend and is expected to discuss government’s controversial subsidies for chemical fertilizers rather than climate resilient agroecology. Matupi trains other women farmers in these methods and advocates for their rights. 

Another report by the South African-based ActionAid––“Can Climate Change-Fueled Loss and Damage Ever Be Fair?”––endorsed by nearly 100 community groups holds the U.S. and EU jointly responsible for more than half the cost of repairing the damage caused by climate disasters in the Global South. 

The groups calculated countries’ ‘fair share’ of responsibility based on historic contributions to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions and their capacity to take climate action based on national income while taking into account what is needed to provide basic living standards. 

Senior members of the Trump administration are not planning to attend the meeting, but Democrats are sending a delegation to the venue. The conference closes on Dec. 13. 

MAJOR PEACE PRIZE AWARDED TO HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST FROM WESTERN SAHARA

(GIN)––The Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ goes to five human rights activists this year. Among them is Aminatou Haidar of the Western Sahara. 

Ms. Haidar receives the Right Livelihood Award “for her steadfast nonviolent action, despite imprisonment and torture, in pursuit of justice and self-determination for the people of Western Sahara,” according to organizers of the event  in Stockholm, Sweden this week. 

It is the first time that a Right Livelihood Award goes to a Laureate from Western Sahara. 

Aminatou Haidar commented: “I feel very honored to receive the renowned Right Livelihood Award. This is a recognition of my non-violent struggle and the just cause of the Sahrawi people. Despite military occupation and violations of fundamental human rights, they continue their peaceful struggle. The Sahrawis deserve to be supported by all so that, one day, they will achieve independence and freedom.” 

Aminatou Haidar was born in El-Ayoun in July 1967 when Western Sahara was under Spanish colonial rule. Only two years earlier, the U.N. General Assembly adopted its first resolution on Western Sahara requesting Spain to decolonize the disputed territory. In the following years, the U.N. General Assembly repeatedly requested Spain to organize a referendum on self-determination, under U.N. supervision. In the meantime, the neighboring countries Morocco and Mauritania claimed the territory. 

The indigenous people of Western Sahara, the Sahrawis, have repeatedly been promised the right to self-determination by the U.N., Spain and Morocco. But more than 40 years have passed without a referendum being held, with the international community indifferent or even complicit in the occupation. 

The four other awards went to Guo Jianmei (China), Greta Thunberg (Sweden) and Davi Kopenawa/Hutukara Yanomami Association (Brazil). 

The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 to “honor and support courageous people solving global problems.” It has become widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ and there are now 178 Laureates from 70 countries. It comes with a substantial monetary award.