Humanitarian organizations rely on fossil fuels. Here’s how Médecins Sans Frontières is cutting its carbon footprint down

The global humanitarian organization’s approach starts with a simple mantra: Mitigate what you can measure

Why It Matters

Humanitarian work has climate impacts. Nearly all of the transportation, logistical, and power generation required to keep a field hospital operational depends on fossil fuel use. Not addressing these issues — especially as more people suffer from the effects of climate change — is antithetical to the principles of international aid.

One of Africa’s starkest illustrations of climate change is found on the dried and desiccated shores of Lake Chad. 

Within the last 60 years, drought and overuse have drained 90 percent of the lake’s water. Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria all depend on it for irrigation and clean water. The effects of this ecological disaster in the Sahel region — forced migration and even political violence — are the social effects of climate change, an observation made by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in the region. “The Sahel, long affected by conflict and insecurity, is now also increasingly affected by environmental factors that seriously impact the health and nutrition of its populations,” reads a 2018 policy brief written in partnership with The Lancet Countdown

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