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A continent in crisis: Cyclones and climate strikes


Southern Africa has yet to recover from Cyclone Idai, which devastated Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, leaving over 1 000 people dead. Now another tropical cyclone, dubbed “Kenneth”, is predicted to hit Mozambique and Tanzania in the coming week. Despite the tumultuous turn that the climate has taken, the vast majority of the people agitating for action are the continent’s young.

The National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) is warning of a tropical cyclone, to be called “Kenneth”, which may have severe consequences for the northern part of Cabo Delgado in Mozambique and the south of Tanzania in the coming week.

According to the African News Agency, the INGC said it is monitoring the low pressure system situated over northern Madagascar, which could reach the north of Mozambique and the south of Tanzania in the coming days.

Should Kenneth reach landfall, the storm is expected to top out at 103 mph, which is the equivalent of a Category 2 storm, and those affected will have to rely on a support system that is still overtaxed by the response to Cyclone Idai. The United Nations reports that there are still more than 77 000 internally displaced people and that even a month after the storm, aid workers are finding communities that have been cut off from the outside world. In addition, a cholera outbreak fuelled by Idai’s floodwaters has affected more than 6 000 people.

What is important to note about Cyclone Idai is that it developed in the Mozambique Channel, which is between Mozambique and Madagascar. Usually, storms that develop there do not strengthen as much as those that form to the north and east of Madagascar. Cyclone Idai, however, was fed by warm water temperatures.

The United Nations estimates that Cyclone Idai and subsequent flooding destroyed more than US$1 billion of infrastructure. More than 100 000 homes were damaged or destroyed, along with at least 1 million acres of crops.

Fridays for Future: The #ClimateStrike movement catches on in Africa

These storms repeatedly illustrate the glaring choices that a warming world will force us to make. It also exposes the brittleness of response systems and governments, particularly in the developing world, where there are fewer resources available to prepare for weather disasters and to respond afterwards.

These storms repeatedly illustrate the glaring choices that a warming world will force us to make.

“If we acknowledge the enormity of the task, to change a self-contained system that’s consuming the world, we not only need a huge amount of patience but all the allies we can get,” the director of Berlin’s Museum of Natural History, Johannes Vogel, told the news agency Deutsche Welle.

Read: Meet Doyinsola Ogunye: Nigeria’s young radical environmentalist

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg began school strikes over climate change and catalysed a movement that has gained worldwide traction, with tens of thousands of students participating regularly in “Fridays for Future” demonstrations in Hamburg, Germany.

This mass event started with the lone schoolgirl refusing to attend school as a way of objecting to adults’ failure to do anything to stop climate change. Her message? Why bother to learn for the future if there is not going to be one.

Many people under the age of 18 right now may be around to see the end of the century – and they are not on board with the climate they are inheriting. The earth’s current trajectory puts the planet on course to warm by 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, creating a world that will be devastated by disasters, droughts, disease and food shortages.

In March 2019, students in more than 120 countries went on strike from school to demand action on climate change. This youth-led climate activism has made it onto the African continent, most visibly through Irene Kananura of Kampala, Uganda. The youngster sits by the side of the road every Friday, holding signs agitating for climate action, a stance that many less visible African youngsters share.

“Our house is on fire,” Greta Thunberg said in a speech at Davos in January 2019. “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” She and other young people like her show no sign of letting up the pressure. They may be the force we need to save our future.

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