Poverty and Climate Change

Vietnam has experienced increasingly destructive storms over the past decade. To cope, local communities are improving how they build their homes against the threat of typhoons and flooding.

Le Thi Phuoc can recall the terror of losing her roof when a fierce storm lashed her small village in Vietnam.

“I was so afraid because the house was shaking, I ran to the neighbors to take shelter. When I was a child, I wasn’t scared of storms. But now they terrify me,” says the 62-year-old woman, who shares a small house with her 84-year-old mother in the coastal Quang Nam province.

This wasn’t the first time the pair had fallen victim to the increasingly destructive storms that wreak havoc on this province.

With Vietnam considered extremely vulnerable to climate change, severe weather has become a reality that increasingly endangers lives and threatens the homes people own and how people make a living, especially in many coastline communities.

Recognizing these growing threats, Catholic Relief Services implemented a project in seven disaster-prone communities in Quang Nam province to raise awareness of disaster risk reduction and engage households in developing and implementing personalized plans to enhance their resilience to climate shocks.

Communities take the lead in identifying their needs and solutions. Technical support groups, formed by community organizations in coordination with Vietnam’s national community-based disaster risk reduction program, work within each village to identify needs and specific solutions, and implement the resulting plans.

For Le Thi Phuoc, this process resulted in other villagers nominating her home as one of six households most in need of project support. “During our village meeting, we discussed each other’s problems and my house was identified as most vulnerable to storms and floods. It was a fair way to do it,” says Phuoc, who along with her mother, struggles with mobility.

“Me and mom sleep well and feel safe now, despite many storms coming here. This is [especially] a relief for my mother, as evacuating was hard because of her age,” says Phuoc, who noted that previous roof repairs would often force her into debt.

Community leaders look back with a sense of pride knowing that vulnerable members of the community like Phuoc and her mother can now rest easier at night and have greater resilience to severe weather.

CRS has plans to expand this program into three other provinces in Vietnam.

A Look Back and A Look Forward on Climate Change:

Despite challenges to addressing climate change in this current political climate, we made significant steps to support our brothers and sisters around the world in building greater resilience to climate shocks and the changing climate that disproportionately affect those living in poverty. This network helped motivate 88 members in the House of Representatives to join the Climate Solutions Caucus. We also helped to reauthorize the Farm Bill which maintained and improved international food security programs that promote sustainable farming practices and the care of our common home.

As a new Congress begins, so too does our opportunity to influence our legislators as they outline their priorities. Lift your voice today to ensure Congress prioritizes caring for creation and addressing climate change.