Monday, December 20, 2010

Climate Refugees

On the move in a warming world: The rise of climate refugees

Dec. 19, 2010 - Five-year-old Fatime moves in slow motion, barely able to lift her skeletal arms and legs. Flies land on her face, and she is too weak to brush them away. She struggles to drink a cup of therapeutic milk, the only food she can swallow.

Her parents were nomads who owned dozens of camels that provided meat and milk for their family. Then the rains stopped coming. The thorn trees began dying, the vegetation withered up and the big herds of camels ceased to roam.

“I've never seen this before,” says her 29-year-old mother, Halime Djime, who has already lost two of her four children to malnutrition and disease. “Even when there were no trees, there would be vegetation. This is the first time that the land is all white.”

Fatime weighs just seven kilograms – barely half of what she should weigh at her age. Teetering between life and death, her emaciated body evokes memories of Ethiopian famines in the 1980s. Yet she is not a poster child for a celebrity benefit concert or a charity campaign. Ignored by much of the world, the starving children of the African Sahel represent a new global challenge: How to respond to the climate crisis that the world's politicians have failed to fix, and how to break the cycle of endless emergency aid in an era of donor fatigue. {continued}

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