Poverty and Climate Change

Climate change in Zimbabwe. You can see it in the dried-up riverbeds. You can see it in the emaciated livestock. You can see it in the classrooms—where the success or failure of a small vegetable garden can stand between a child and his or her education.

Like many parts of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe has been hit hard by climate change. The most recent rainfall season was the driest in the past 35 years, leaving about 30% of the rural population without enough food.

The drought and climate change have affected all aspects of life in Zimbabwe, including children’s ability to get an education. Pamhy Maranga is one of those children. Her family lost many crops in the drought. They are struggling to survive, yet education is still a priority for Pamhy. Besides trying to find ways to feed her body, the 15-year-old is also struggling to feed her mind.

Pamhy’s parents can’t afford her school or country-wide exam fees so she is several grades behind. Their story is just one of many. According to a country assessment, roughly 1.4 million children are impacted in the 10 most drought-affected districts. School authorities report that attendance has declined and students have trouble concentrating.

“Drought is very connected to education in many ways. To start with, there’s no food if there’s drought. Children concentrate less when they’re hungry,” says Alice Moyo, project manager for CRS’ vulnerable children programs, “Children leave for school, hoping that when they get to school, during break time, a friend or a peer will share with them what they have.”

To help families like Pamhy’s adapt to climate change, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is helping farmers create new sources of income—and build resiliency—with small grants, training and support. As a result, 90% of the grantees have reported increases in income levels and improvements in their diets.

CRS sees the interrelated relationship between humans and the environment daily, especially as it affects vulnerable people around the world. We’re helping people adapt to climate change. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Environmental Justice Program (EJP) educates and motivates Catholics to a deeper reverence and respect for God’s creation, and encourages Catholics to address environmental problems, especially as they affect poor and vulnerable people.

It is our responsibility, as Catholics, to slow its progress. Through Catholics Confront Global Poverty, the USCCB and CRS are advocating for policies that are morally responsible, including cultural and economic changes that are necessary to save our Earth. Join us as we urge U.S. leaders and policymakers to address both the causes and effects of climate change.