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UN-backed Group Links Climate Information To African Poverty Reduction

The Global Climate Observing System, an organization sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization, is launching an initiative to provide vital climate information for development needs in Africa. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The Global Climate Observing System says widespread poverty makes Africa particularly vulnerable to climate change. An official with the organization, William Westermeyer, says most natural disasters that occur in Africa are related to weather, climate and water.

"African countries and people are subject to severe drought, flooding, food shortages and disease. And, most of these natural disasters are related to climate. Africa is also lagging [behind] the rest of the world in terms of development. So, a key aim is to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to improve the quality of life for millions of Africans. Climate change and development are clearly linked," he said.

The U.N.-sponsored Millennium Development Goals aim to cut worldwide poverty in half by 2015. Africa is far behind in reaching that target. The new strategy plans to provide vital climate information to countries in Africa. This will help them better manage the crises, such as severe drought and flooding, that are likely to occur because of climate change.

For instance, Westermeyer says farmers who are aware a drought is predicted will be better able to cope. They will know when to plant their crop. They will know what kind of crop would be best suited for dry weather. He says advance information would also help lessen the impact of some diseases. "With regard to health, malaria is a very big thing. And, it turns out with better climate information, particularly knowing about things like the onset of a new El Nino for example, you can predict where malaria outbreaks are likely to occur several months in advance. With better information, that can help you prepare those areas to avoid the worst impacts," he said.

Westermeyer says the strengthened monitoring system will also help governments make better climate-related decisions and reduce risks. He says the 10-year program, which will be African-led, will cost around $200 million. He says it is supported by the African Union and the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa.