‘COP26 must help the world’s most vulnerable cope with the climate emergency they face today’

The Leprosy Mission is calling for global leaders to put communities already dealing with some of the worst effects of climate change at the heart of COP26.

Chief Executive Peter Waddup said ambitious targets to reduce emissions globally must be set and met. Governments of richer nations should also help developing countries cope with climate change.

In his five years of heading up The Leprosy Mission, Peter has witnessed the devastating effects of climate change in some of the most vulnerable communities across Asia and Africa.

He said: “It is a cruel truth that communities affected by Neglected Tropical Diseases, which include leprosy, are among the worst affected by extreme weather events.

“We are in daily contact with our project leaders across Asia and Africa. From flooding and landslides to drought and cyclones, they are working in communities where climate change has caused death and widespread destruction. As a result, people are plunged deeper into poverty and food insecurity.

“World leaders have a collective responsibility to slow the warming of our planet. They must help the world’s most vulnerable people adapt to the climate change challenges they face today. We must act together to protect our common home."

Peter said that people affected by leprosy are disproportionally affected by climate change. They are likely to live in marginalised communities with a lack of sanitation and poor nutrition which leads to weakened immune systems.

“This is why they have leprosy in the first place,” said Peter

“And the fact they are affected by leprosy means they are likely to face prejudice and have a disability. Climate change is exacerbating an already extremely tough situation. Tragically people affected by leprosy are less likely to survive a climate disaster. We are supporting people living in these marginalised communities and governments must include them in their disaster management plans.”

The Leprosy Mission has a number of innovative projects to help people cope with climate change. More than 4,000 farmers living hand to mouth in Northern Mozambique - like Maria, pictured above - have been trained in sustainable farming methods which will help them to adapt to more frequent droughts and reduced rainfall.

Peter explained: "Their families now have a more varied and nourishing diet as a direct result of growing beans. They usually grow maize and vegetables but are now growing beans between the crops when they are about to ripen.

“The beans are planted after the main staple maize has grown up and is ready for harvest. The beans then take up the residual moisture in the soil which is insufficient for for other crops to grow. They also absorb the nitrogen from the air, and put it back into the soil creating a natural fertiliser.

"Beans are also a great source of protein, nourishing the bodies of those living in communities affected by leprosy. Malnutrition leads to a weakened immune system so just by eating a nourishing diet, people are less likely to get leprosy in the first place. This is an example of a simple intervention having wide-reaching benefits.”

The Leprosy Mission is committed to reducing its own carbon footprint. This is in its country offices as well as in its hospitals and life-changing projects.

"As a Christian charity we believe that we are custodians of God’s creation," said Peter.

"We need to protect our planet for future generations as well as standing by the most vulnerable facing a climate emergency today.

"Like any organisation, we have a carbon footprint which we are working hard to reduce by cutting back on the number of flights we take and the amount of waste we produce.

"We are also implementing renewable energy resources in our buildings and projects globally. In Naini Hospital in India we have installed solar panels replacing electricity generated by fossil fuels.

"We have been planting native coconut trees in Sri Lanka and have installed mini hydropower units to power remote communities in Myanmar."