How climate change looks — and feels — in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
KISANGANI – The searing heat of the last few months in this northern city of the Democratic Republic of Congo is taking its toll. Newborns, the elderly and albinos are the first victims, while others will feel the effects of the crop damage expected from one of the worst heat waves in memory.
Over the past three months, average temperatures in Kisangani have risen from 25°C to 38°C. “This is a first. The city has never known a level over 32°C,” says one veteran meteorologist.
Still, last year there was also a rise in temperatures, and some experts are blaming global warming. Climate expert Emmanuel Kasongo from Kisangani University points the finger at deforestation, which he says “diminishes the frequency of rainfall, modifies the agricultural calendar and produces greater heat.” He exhorts the woodland farmers as well as the population to plant trees.
Beyond the longterm impact, locals are feeling the heat right now. Babies are the first victims. One naked infant of three months is lying face down on a sofa, crying. Her mother tries to take her in her arms to calm her down but it’s useless. “She’s having trouble sleeping because of this red patch,” says the woman. “I’ve been using this ointment the doctor prescribed but it doesn’t work.”
These last three months, the local pediatric center of Alabul has taken in three times as many dehydrated babies as it did during the same period in 2012. Head nurse Alphie Kahambu blames it on the rising temperatures: “Obviously, when it’s 32°C the babies feel 38°C. It results in spots and severe itching sensations. As the infants don’t know how to scratch, they cry a lot, which leads to dehydration.”
Albinos without sunblock
The significant populaiton of albinos are the most affected, since the sun rays cause lesions on their skin. According to the figures provided by the Association for the Protection of Albinos (APRODEPA), “80% of the albino population suffers from minor wounds on their skin and mouth because of the high temperatures,” explains association president Severin Ndumba. “The situation is getting worse since we have no sunscreen to protect us at this time of year.”
The pharmacists refuse to order those products since they don’t sell well on the local market. “No one buys sunscreen. I threw away a whole case of a hundred last year,” says one pharmacist. Another complains that the products are expensive “and most albinos, or their parents, are poor.”
The sheet metal roofs used in local building turn the houses into virtual ovens and many families choose to sleep outside with the doors and windows wide open. One family was robbed recently, but the mother says they have no choice. “It’s too hot inside. My kids caught a heat rash on their backs because of it.”
The plants are also taking a hit. “Every crop is affected by the excessive heat and the harvests have been dropping the last two years,” explains Quadratus Muganza, president of the peasant union for development (UPDKIS). “We used to harvest between 800 and 1000 kilograms of white rice per hectare in 2010, but it plummeted to 400 or 600 in 2011 and 2012.”
Tomatoes are withering under the sun. “We are losing serious money!” says a tomato farmer in front of his field by the river Tshopo. She’s already lost ten patches of large tomatoes since March.
World Bank refuses to review support for logging in tropical rainforests despite criticism from its own independent evaluators
The World Bank Board of Directors has blocked a call by independent evaluators to review the outcomes of the Bank’s support for industrial-scale logging in tropical rainforests. The evaluators concluded in a report published last Friday that such operations have not been effective in reducing poverty, the World Bank’s core mandate, or achieving sustainability. Despite these findings, the Board voted unanimously against a recommendation that the Bank review the effectiveness of its support for tropical forest logging.
“The very survival of tropical forests and the way of life of people who live in them is under threat, and the World Bank is in denial about its contribution to the problem,” said Rick Jacobsen of Global Witness. “As a public institution tasked with reducing poverty, the World Bank should take very seriously its own evaluators’ finding that its approach is not helping vulnerable forest communities. It’s time for the Bank to stop defending destructive logging practices in the name of development benefits that never materialize.”
“After 10 years of World Bank-led reforms in the DRC, roughly 150,000 km2 of rainforest remain in the hands of poorly regulated international logging companies, while communities are once again being left behind,” said Susanne Breitkopf of Greenpeace International. The reform process in the DRC has been marred with irregularities and widely criticized; meanwhile, a law that would support community management of forests has been stalled for years, and the Bank is financing a forest zoning process that is likely to earmark huge areas of rainforest for industrial logging.
While the Bank fiercely rejected the evaluators’ criticism of its support for industrial-scale logging in the tropics, it accepted seven other recommendations made in the report. Two of these focused on the need to provide more support for forest-dependent communities to allow them to directly manage their own forest resources. The Bank has not yet indicated how it plans to implement these recommendations. Breitkopf remains skeptical: “In order to reduce poverty and deforestation, the Bank needs to put land rights and community forest management at front and center of its projects, rather than making them cosmetic add-ons.”
Rick Jacobsen, Team Leader, International Forest Policy, Global Witness
+1 415 699 9504, firstname.lastname@example.org
Susanne Breitkopf, Senior Political Advisor, Greenpeace International
+1 202 390 5586, email@example.com
Notes to editors:
The Committee of the Development Effectiveness (CODE) of the World Bank Board of Executive Directors was responsible for the decision and currently includes the Executive Directors of Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Sweden, United Kingdom and Zambia.
The World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) is responsible for carrying out independent evaluations of World Bank operations and reports directly to the Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE) of the World Bank Board of Directors. The IEG evaluation and responses from World Bank management and CODE are available here: http://ieg.worldbankgroup.org/content/ieg/en/home.html
In late 2010, an Independent Forest Monitor financed by the European Development Fund was appointed by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to monitor the quality of law enforcement in the country. The Monitor’s first field reports were published in January 2013 and are available in French at the following website: http://www.observation-rdc.info/Rapports.html#7
The Bank has been instrumental in putting into place policies in many tropical countries that result in widespread logging of tropical rainforests. Yet according to a growing body of evidence, industrial-scale logging contributes to tropical deforestation while doing little to improve the lives of forest-dependent communities and indigenous peoples. Corruption and lack of government oversight further aggravate the problem. In the countries of Africa’s Congo Basin, home to the world’s second largest rainforest next to the Amazon, law enforcement in the logging sector is ineffective and corruption and cronyism are widespread. Recent reports from a government-appointed independent observer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, found that many international logging companies are carrying out illegal activities.