President Samia Cuts Short COP28 Attendance Amid Devastating Floods in Tanzania

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Samia Suluhu Hassan (Courtesy Photo)
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Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan has made the difficult decision to curtail her participation in the ongoing COP28 climate summit in Dubai, returning home urgently in the wake of deadly floods and landslides that have claimed at least 50 lives in the northern Hanang region.

The president’s spokesperson, Zuhura Yunus, announced on Monday that President Samia is prioritizing the crisis at home, aiming to address the unfolding disaster that has left around 5,600 people affected. Heavy rains have damaged homes, infrastructure, and farmland, directly threatening the livelihoods of the affected population.

The Tanzanian government has dispatched 400 rescue workers to the Hanang region, but Ms. Yunus highlighted the challenges they are facing. Defective telecommunications and blocked, damaged roads are hampering rescue efforts, making the situation even more critical.

President Samia, who was actively participating in the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP28), is now returning to Tanzania to lead the response to the disaster. Her decision underscores the severity of the situation and the need for immediate action.

In a statement, Ms. Yunus conveyed President Samia’s directives, stating that the government will cover funeral expenses for the victims, hospital fees for the wounded, and provide temporary housing for those who lost their homes in the catastrophe.

Despite the efforts to address the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the Tanzanian meteorology agency has warned that the rains are expected to persist throughout the month. This alarming prediction adds urgency to relief and recovery efforts.

Tanzania, like many East African nations, has been grappling with severe flooding, a recurring natural hazard that affects tens of thousands of people annually. The current crisis is exacerbated by the El Niño weather phenomenon, contributing to floods and landslides that have already caused devastation in various parts of East Africa throughout 2023.

This unfortunate turn of events further emphasizes the interconnectedness of climate change discussions at global summits like COP28 and the immediate, real-world impacts faced by vulnerable communities. As President Samia returns to her country to confront this crisis, the international community is reminded of the pressing need for collaborative and decisive action to mitigate the effects of climate change and support nations facing the brunt of its consequences.

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