BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Leaders from 22 Latin American and Caribbean countries have adopted a plan to strengthen early warning systems and improve how the region prepares for and copes with humanitarian disasters and future extreme weather events likely to be triggered by climate change, the United Nations has said.
Millions of people suffer every year from the effects of climate change, like droughts and flooding caused by hurricanes, along with rapid urbanisation, said U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos, speaking at the end of a three-day meeting last week in Kingston, Jamaica, aimed at improving coordination amongst regional governments and the humanitarian community.
“We are seeing more natural disasters with a deeper impact. Earthquakes and hurricanes are having a significant impact not only on loss of life but [they] are also having an economic impact across the region,” Amos told Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Kingston.
From the massive 2010 Haitian earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people to Hurricane Ingrid that inundated many Mexican cities last month, Latin America and the Caribbean are vulnerable to the impact of climate change and natural disasters.
National leaders agreed in a declaration at the Kingston meeting to support the creation of an Americas regional logistics centre for humanitarian assistance based in Panama and a sub-regional hub in Jamaica so that aid can be delivered more effectively during humanitarian crises.
"Today we agreed that to meet the challenges of humanitarian crises we need to use communications technology, use the experience of the corporate sector, and better engage with communities themselves, to improve the way we work,” Amos, who heads the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told reporters in Kingston on Friday at the end of the annual meeting on Enhancing Humanitarian Partnerships known as (MIAH).
AID NOT REACHING ALL SYRIANS IN NEED
Speaking about the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Amos said the shelling and violence that are part of the country’s civil war are keeping people trapped in their homes and preventing the U.N. from reaching about two million people who need aid.
“Getting access across the country is still extremely difficult because of the security situation and proliferation of armed groups,” Amos told Thomson Reuters Foundation. “There are besieged populations, around 2 million people, who we have not been able to reach. People in parts of rural Damascus and parts of Aleppo have not been able to leave their communities to get the food and medicines they need.”
Since August, Amos has been pushing for the U.N. Security Council to pass an aid resolution that would allow aid to be more easily distributed in Syria. This would involve rebels and the Syrian government allowing cross-border aid deliveries, humanitarian pauses in fighting, aid convoy routes and letting civilians move to safer areas without fear of attack.
“We can’t guarantee the safety of our convoys and workers because of insecurity,” said Amos, U.N. undersecretary-general.
The plight of Syrians, especially those living in makeshift shelters and refugee camps, is likely to worsen with the onset of winter, aid groups say.
Neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq have taken in most of the nearly 2.2 million Syrian refugees who have been forced to flee their country to escape the civil war that has killed at least 100,000 people since March 2011.
“Syrians who have fled to neighbouring countries are having a significant impact on the economy and on social services in those countries,” Amos said.