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Home » Global Resilience » Climate change isa global problem, but local action is key to supporting those most at risk

Sarah Clayton-Fisher

Head of Africa Regions, British Red Cross

Climate change is creating new threats and challenges for people and communities around the globe, and in sub-Saharan Africa, those dangers are all too apparent.

Surface temperatures in the region have generally increased faster than the global average rate. Recurrent droughts and erratic rainfall have worsened years-long food crises in countries such as Namibia, Eswatini and Kenya. People who depend directly on their land and animals for their livelihoods have had their stability upended, with disruption to agriculture making it harder to provide for themselves and their families.

The region is home to some of the world’s most resilient people, but the climate emergency is making life for millions ever tougher. In a cruel irony, those bearing the brunt of its dangerous and damaging effects are among the lowest contributors to global CO2 emissions.

With a growing need for international support for the people most directly affected by the climate crisis, the British Red Cross has supported many local African Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in a three-year programme designed to boost resilience in the face of climate change and associated challenges.

Funded in part thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the Enhancing Livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa (ELISSA) programme aims to alleviate poverty and hunger by empowering people to achieve food and economic security. Launched in 2022, it is active in countries across sub-Saharan Africa, with over £3.3 million in vital support allocated to date.

Protecting livelihoods across communities

The landlocked nation of Eswatini is one of Africa’s smallest countries. Its mostly rural population depends largely on subsistence farming, leaving people at heightened risk from climate stresses. ELISSA has delivered expert training on livestock farming and crop disease prevention, helping farmers protect their income and maintain a more dependable food supply.

The programme has also helped to establish savings groups whose members, mostly women, support one another through income-generating activities and can access guidance on financial literacy and business development.

In Namibia, the National Red Cross Society has delivered training for over 1,000 small-scale farmers, helping them to increase their crop production by 10%. They also provided direct, flexible funding for them to invest in their farms, empowering them to put their skills and knowledge to use.

For millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa, climate change is a pressing danger — one that requires commitment, determination and funding to confront.

Supporting food security and water access

In Kenya, where millions of people have been facing food insecurity in recent years, and 41% of the population has limited access to safe drinking water, ELISSA supported the extension of water pipelines and the construction of new water points, benefitting over 23,000 people living at increased risk from droughts.

In other countries across the region, the programme established mother-to-mother support groups, distributing cash grants to women to start businesses and provide for themselves and their families. It also helped mothers of young children establish kitchen gardens, working with families to grow nutritious food in their backyards.

Locally led climate response

These kinds of interventions — targeted and designed in response to the situations facing individuals and communities — can be life-changing for the people so profoundly affected by climate change. While the crisis poses immense challenges, locally led action is key to confronting them and protecting lives and livelihoods.

Local Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are often members of the communities they serve, and therefore have the best expertise on their needs and the challenges they face. By supporting our volunteer-led partner National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, we ensure that the benefits of our programme will continue for years to come.

For millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa, climate change is a pressing danger — one that requires commitment, determination and funding to confront. But while the threat isn’t going away any time soon, neither are National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

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