Livestock represent livelihoods. Due to the severe droughts in the Horn of Africa and the conflict in South Sudan, nearly 16 million people are facing starvation
The droughts which have engulfed East Africa have left millions of people on the brink of starvation in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. The effects of dry El Niño years, amplified by climate change-induced high temperatures and erratic rains, have led to food shortages, dead livestock and the subsequent loss of livelihood for millions of people.
In Northern Kenya pastoralists have suffered not just from a lack of rain, but also unexpected flash floods. At the end of a dusty road, snaking through the flat, low lying, lava-rubble plains of the Dida Galgalu desert lies the village of Burgabo. It has one of the oldest boreholes drilled by the colonial government in 1954. Burgabo is the only watering point for miles around and the high temperatures, long trekking distances and extended waiting times has claimed the lives of thousands of small livestock. Many donkeys, the main form of transport for pastoralists, have also perished.
The other day while herders patiently waited for their turn to access the limited water hole, a huge dust cloud engulfed the area and the pastoralists all rushed to the nearby tin houses for shelter. Then rain started to pound the rooves as wind whipped across the treeless plain. Herders exchanged worried looks until after 30 minutes the sky cleared. A confused and traumatised herder, soaked with mud and water came shouting and the villagers rushed to find out what had happened. The unexpected flash flood had killed more than 700 sheep and goats.
Livestock represent livelihoods. Due to the severe droughts in the Horn of Africa and the conflict in South Sudan, nearly 16 million people are facing starvation. Humanitarian relief is essential which is why the Disasters Emergency Committee has triggered an appeal to bring vital supplies to those affected.
The short term needs are stark, but the long term solutions are the other side of the same coin. Such extreme climatic changes are a warning we need a global transition to a low carbon world and this is a message understood in countries where this crisis is unfolding.
Recent polling revealed that 64% of Kenyans would vote in the general elections this summer for a political party that is committed to providing renewable energy. The study also showed that currently only one per cent of the population use clean energy for cooking, which indicates the scope for renewables growth in the country.
As the world continues to heat up, and many African countries warm at a faster rate than the global average, the kind of emergency playing out on our TV screens will only return unless we do something about it. Helping African countries to leapfrog the kind of polluting industrial revolution that Britain benefited from is one way we can do this. That's why it's especially galling to see Britain's contribution to the Green Climate Fund attacked in the UK press. This climate finance is designed to help these vulnerable countries adapt to the ravages of a climate they did nothing to change; to make them more resilient and save both lives and money in the long term.
This kind of climate-smart aid is the least the developed world can do, having got wealthy by using up much of the planetary carbon budget. And yet this promised funding, which is also the rich world's side of the bargain in much of the international climate negotiations is now being targeted by those who want to see the UK aid budget scrapped. The good news is that where we have invested ahead of time in resilience programmes the suffering in the current crisis has been much reduced - so it does work.
The British public are responding to the current DEC Appeal which will save millions of lives in East Africa. But it's vital that the British Government ensure that they address the long term needs of the region by keeping its promises to the Green Climate Fund and the low carbon transition of the developing world.
Joe Ware is a writer and journalist at Christian Aid and a regular Ecologist New Voices contributor. You can follow him on twitter at @wareisjoe.
To make a donation to the DEC Appeal visit www.christianaid.org.uk