AUC, Others, Host Southern Africa Ministerial Meeting on Integrated Early Warning and Action System Initiative

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The African Union Commission (AUC), Southern African Development Community (SADC), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) organised and hosted the Southern Africa Ministerial Meeting on Integrated Early Warning and Early Action System Initiative on September 5 – 9, 2022 in Maputo, Mozambique.

The objective of the meeting was to develop a regional blueprint to implement the call of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that early warning systems should protect every person on earth in the next five years and substantially increase the availability of and access to early warning and action systems. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is spearheading the Early Warnings for All campaign. It will present this blueprint to the UN Climate Change conference, COP27, in Egypt in November 2022.

In addition, the event provided a clearer understanding of the resource needs for a SADC Emergency Operations Center for the significant expansion of early warning systems in Southern Africa to protect lives and livelihoods from increasingly extreme weather and climate change impacts.

The WMO State of the Climate in Africa 2021 report, released on 8 September at the ministerial segment of the conference, examined climate change impacts on lives and livelihoods in greater detail. Climate projections point to an increase in the intensity and frequency of heat and heavy precipitation extremes as well as an increase in the length of dry spells, more frequent droughts and an increase of the most powerful Category 4-5 tropical cyclones.

The 2021/2022 rainfall season saw six cyclonic systems bring devastating torrential rainfall that brought colossal damage to the region within six weeks, including Mozambique and Madagascar. South Africa suffered deadly floods in April 2022, killing hundreds and forcing thousands out of their homes, and a prolonged and acute drought grips southern Madagascar.

Multi-hazard early warning systems and impact-based forecasts

Similarly, the host country, Mozambique, was hit by Tropical Cyclone Idai, which caused devastation to the city of Beira and the Province of Sofala in Mozambique in 2019. It was followed a month later by Tropical Cyclone Kenneth, the strongest cyclone ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, which hit the northern part of Mozambique. The two cyclones killed more than 700 people and displaced 420,000.

Although early warnings were issued, they did not reach those who needed them most. In addition, the early warnings weren’t used to initiate anticipatory action in the critical time window between forecast and actual cyclone landfall to mitigate the impact of the torrential rains and devastating winds ahead of time. 

Therefore, the Maputo ministerial meeting discussed how to scale up impact-based forecasts and risk-informed warnings for all– supporting the gradual shift from forecasts that tell end-users what the weather will be to what it will do to allow for earlier, informed decision-making. 

A critical element will be the development of a joint vision on how MHEWS could be better enable to activate anticipatory actions ahead of climate shocks to reduce the humanitarian footprint of weather-related shocks in southern Africa. In doing so, the ministerial conference brought the forecasting community and actors in the field of anticipatory action together.

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