Ugandan boarding school rescues young teen girls from forced marriage

Esther Nangiru, left, and Susan Cherotich are victims of forced marriage who are taking refuge at Kalas Girls Primary School in Amudat, northern Uganda. (Gerald Matembu)

Amudat, Uganda — Sitting at her desk in a classroom at Kalas Girls Primary School in this remote town of northern Uganda, 15-year-old Susan Cherotich narrated through tears how she had fled her parents’ home some six weeks earlier following pressure from her uncles and elders to marry before she completes her education.

The eighth-grade student said her parents were opposed to the idea, but the decision by the majority of her clan members to start a home with a man was more binding, a common practice in her Pokot tribe.

Susan said her uncles and elders wanted to sell her against her will into marriage for dozens of cows to an older man she had never met.

“I heard that the man had several wives, and he was willing to give out many cows,” she said.

“I left at night after realizing they were coming to marry me off.”

She took refuge at a police station before religious sisters took her to Kalas Girls Primary School in Amudat parish, run by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Reparatrix-Ggogonya. “My father pleaded with his brothers and elders to let me finish school, but they objected, saying it was the right time for me to be married off since schools were taking a long time to resume due to the COVID-19 lockdown.”

Susan is among thousands of girls in northern Uganda who have been rescued from marriages they did not want and taken to Kalas Girls Primary School, which is also sponsored by UN WomenUNICEF and the World Food Program. The boarding school provides hope and a haven for girls who have escaped genital mutilation and child marriage. At the school, the girls receive counseling and psychosocial support.

The East African nation is one of the countries with the highest rates of early and forced marriage, according to a 2019 report by UNICEF: The country of more than 45 million people is home to 5 million child brides. Of these, 1.3 million married before age 15, UNICEF reports.

The report also notes that child marriage results in teenage pregnancy, which contributes to high maternal deaths and health complications like obstetric fistula, premature births, and sexually transmitted diseases. It is also the leading cause of girls dropping out of school.

The practice is widespread in rural areas such as Amudat, where there are high levels of illiteracy, poverty and unemployment, UNICEF notes. Parents in many communities here bring up daughters for a single purpose: to sell them when they are children into marriage for cows, which are considered a key source of livelihood and a symbol of wealth and success.

“People in this area consider marriage as a shortcut to benefiting from a girl child [more] than education, which would require them to spend money on tuition. Educating a girl is seen as a loss to majority of residents here,” said Haji Shaikh Waswa Masokoyi, the chief administrative officer of Amudat. He added that a girl fetches between 40 and 50 cows. “These forms of gender-based violence have escalated during the COVID-19 lockdown [that was in effect from March 2020 to January 2022]. Over 300 girls are estimated to have been married off during the lockdown.”

Sr. Maria Proscovia Nantege, headmistress of Kalas Girls Primary School, works with the police and other agencies to ensure girls are protected from early marriage and that those rescued are offered a haven before they are reintegrated back with their families. The sisters also provide the girls with basic education and vocational training in tailoring, sweater-making, beadwork and hairdressing.

Nantege said they began the program in 2017 after reports from police, local officials and other agencies showed an increase in the number of girls who were being married off in the region.

“We came here to see how we can help the girl child because of the cultural practices being carried out by the community,” she said, noting that their efforts were successful until the government-imposed lockdown to fight COVID-19. “It became worse during the lockdown because girls were dormant at home, and some parents deceived their girls that the lockdown would take five years and so they needed to be married off.”

Nantege said since the program started, they have been able to rescue over 1,000 girls. These girls are usually brought in by the police, or sometimes the girls refuse to go home after schools close, especially when they know a marriage proposal has been arranged, she said.

However, Nantege said not all girls forced into early marriage seek help from the sisters or elsewhere. Only a few who have a vision of completing school and are not comfortable with the proposed spouses seek help, she said.

“The police pick the girls from the villages, but girls sometimes come here directly, and we inform the police about it. We have been working hand-in-hand with the police and other local leaders,” she said. “Our main objective is to provide education to the children. Still, sometimes we do counseling because some of those girls are usually traumatized from the experiences they have gone through. Funding for school fees for these girls is usually the main problem, and we are regularly looking for well-wishers to help us.”

The sisters said the rights of the girls who have gotten married have been violated, including the right to education, freedom from violence, reproductive rights, and the right to consensual marriage.

Fourteen-year-old Esther Nangiru says her parents violated her rights, and she had to run away from her husband last year after he assaulted her.

“My parents forced me to get married when I was 12 years old because they had received cows from my former husband,” she said, adding that her husband would frequently get drunk and beat her. Esther ran away from her home and took refuge at Kalas Girls Primary School.

“It pains me that I had to drop out of school,” Esther said.

Although she is still married, Esther says she will never go back to her husband. She plans to stay in school and learn life skills.

Sr. Dorothy Sserabidde said the sisters have been carrying out an awareness campaign in churches, villages, schools and markets, talking to young people, parents and elders about the dangers of child marriage and female genital mutilation.

“We keep talking to the people in the communities not to force their girls into early marriage and instead allow them to pursue education and achieve their dreams,” said Sserabidde, who is also a teacher at Kalas Girls Primary School. “However, it’s a process since it is a cultural practice rooted in their hearts and minds.”

Susan agreed but appealed for strict measures against the perpetrators.

“They should arrest those elders and parents forcing their daughters to get married against their will,” she said. “They are killing our dreams and violating our rights.”

Can the tide of plastic pollution be turned by a new global pact?

From drinks bottles to straws and cotton buds, the amount of plastic waste that flows into the world’s oceans and marine areas is expected to nearly triple by 2040, adding up to 37 million tonnes each year, the U.N. Environment Programme says.

Just 9% of all the plastic waste ever produced has been recycled, while about 12% has been incinerated. The remainder has finished up in landfills, dumps or the environment, according to the U.N. agency (UNEP).

In a bid to tackle the growing plastic waste crisis, government officials from around the world agreed on Wednesday to start talks toward a historic global plastic pollution treaty at the U.N. Environment Assembly conference in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

It is unclear whether the planned pact will include measures to curb the production of single-use plastic items and packaging, or focus simply on waste management.

U.N. officials said the adoption of the resolution to create a legally binding plastic pollution treaty, due to be finalised by 2024, was the most significant environmental deal since the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Here’s why a global treaty – which will also involve businesses and civil society – is seen as vital to protect the environment, human health and the global economy:

Why is plastic waste such a problem, and who’s behind it?

The United States is the biggest per-capita producer of plastic waste, but in many developing nations a combination of fast-growing economies and populations and long coastlines have filled local seas with plastic rubbish.

Refuse collection and recycling services have largely failed to keep pace with economic development and increased plastic use over the last four decades, particularly in developing countries.

China – once the world’s biggest importer of plastic waste – halted imports in 2018, prompting many wealthy countries to divert their garbage to other developing nations.

Soon after, containers full of unsorted trash – often mislabelled as plastics for recycling – were shipped to various developing countries, causing diplomatic tension.

Faced with growing stockpiles, some countries ramped up the burning of plastics to produce energy or sent the waste to landfill. Both have a severely damaging impact on the environment, green groups have warned.

Much of the rest is discarded in the environment and finds its way into the sea, mainly via the world’s rivers, which serve as direct conduits of trash.

“Almost all the plastic eventually ends up in the ocean. … You can be a non-plastic nation and can still get it onto your shores, into your fish, your blood and into your water system. We are one planet,” Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s climate minister and president of the Nairobi conference, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Why is a global treaty needed?

From the 1980s on, the world quickly became dependent on single-use or disposable plastic, with half of all plastic produced designed to be used only once and then thrown away – from shampoo bottles to shopping bags.

In the early 2000s, the amount of plastic waste rose more in a single decade than it did in the previous 40 years, according to UNEP, with annual plastic waste now totalling about 300 million tonnes.

Globally, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used every year, the U.N. agency added.

The use of disposable plastic, made from oil and gas, supports the fossil fuel industry – fuelling climate change – and hurts the tourism, fishing and shipping industries, according to green groups and economists.

“All evidence suggests that plastic contamination of the ocean is irreversible,” Heike Vesper, director of the marine programme at WWF Germany said in a statement. “Once distributed in the ocean, plastic waste is almost impossible to retrieve.”

The coronavirus pandemic has presented an additional challenge, as single-use plastic consumption has increased during the crisis.

About 75% of plastic generated by the COVID-19 pandemic – such as medical waste and packaging from home deliveries – will likely end up in landfills or the sea, according to U.N. estimates.

What are countries doing to tackle the problem?

Many nations and cities have introduced bans on single-use plastic items, and improved waste collection and recycling.

Public awareness campaigns have also had an impact on consumer behaviour – such as not using single-use drinking straws, or opting for reusable water bottles and coffee cups – along with incentives for recycling.

Communities living near or in coastal areas have teamed up with businesses to form voluntary groups that collect rubbish that washes up on their shores, hoping to protect nature and vital tourism industries.

Meanwhile, new technologies – like mobile apps and GPS – are also being used to help with urban waste collection and management, often using informal garbage collectors.

Facing increased consumer pressure, big brands have pledged to cut plastic waste, with the likes of Coca Cola and PepsiCo among more than 70 signatories to call for a global pact to combat plastic pollution.

What is a circular economy and how can it help?

In a circular economy, waste materials – such as metals, minerals and plastic – are recycled back into new raw materials for a next round of production, reducing rubbish and pollution.

“You need to design products for being circulated – you actually need to collect them, you need to actually recycle them and you need to prioritise recycled products in the end,” said Eide, who is presiding over the negotiations in Nairobi.

About 70% of planet-heating emissions are related to the production and use of products – from the buildings we live in and the transport we use, to the food we eat and the clothes we wear, according to a January report from Amsterdam-based social enterprise Circle Economy.

These emissions are generated by resource extraction, processing and manufacturing of goods, it added.

The report’s authors said nations are missing an opportunity to slash emissions by adopting circular economy policies that reduce demand for resources and could help meet the Paris accord target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Among their suggestions is for countries to use recycled metal and plastics to make vehicles and recycle vehicles.

“Our insatiable demand for resources and throwaway economy is threatening the planet’s future and driving us down the road to climate breakdown,” Martijn Lopes Cardozo, Circle Economy’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Spanish seminary takes in 60 refugees from Ukraine

Bishop Eusebio Ignacio Hernández Sola of Tarazona welcomes a group of Ukrainian refugees to the diocesan seminary, March 13, 2022. | Diocese of Tarazona

The seminary of the Diocese of Tarazona welcomed Sunday 60 refugees from Ukraine who arrived accompanied by dozens of volunteers who had helped them make the trip from the Polish-Ukrainian border.

The group was received March 13 by Bishop Eusebio Ignacio Hernández Sola of Tarazona; the mayor, Luis José Arrechea; the rector of the seminary, Father José Luis Sofín; the families of the volunteers; and a large group of citizens.

According to a statement from the Diocese of Tarazona, the group of refugees consists of women, children, adolescents, and three men.

They will be housed in rooms adapted for them and will have two living rooms to gather in, a game room, and a dining room. In addition, they will have outdoor recreation areas.

“Every effort has been made in the shortest possible time to welcome these people and make them feel at home. It’s necessary to work together and in collaboration to pull in the same direction and help as much as we can,” Bishop Hernández said.

He also stressed that “the ties of fraternity and the good will of these volunteers who went and came back from Poland in almost record time, in a totally altruistic way and showing boundless generosity, to help these people in need who are fleeing from the war.”

“Now our part is to give them warmth and affection because let’s not forget that they have left everything in Ukraine,” he said.

Bishop Hernández said that when the war began he wondered “what we in the Diocese of Tarazona could do and so I offered the diocesan facilities and, in particular the seminary, and the initiative of the volunteers was providential.”

The group of refugees arrived in Spain thanks to the initiative of several volunteers from Tarazona who organized a collection of food, clothing, and medical supplies with the idea of taking them to the Polish-Ukrainian border and returning with refugees.

A convoy of three trucks and nine vans left Tarazona March 9. Three days later, after distributing the aid, the convoy returned to Spain with 60 people who were picked up at a refugee camp in Warsaw.

Upon their arrival, the volunteers and also the refugees thanked everyone for their gestures of solidarity and requested more help because “many things are still needed, medicines, food and money.”

The tragedy of Afghanistan’s malnourished children

Every few seconds a sick child is brought in to the emergency room of the main hospital in Lashkar Gah in a race against time to save the youngest casualties of Afghanistan’s hunger crisis.

Amidst the heart-rending sound of dozens of hungry babies crying, and desperate pleas for help from their mothers, nurses scramble to prioritise children who need urgent care. There are many such babies.

Lashkar Gah is a city in the capital of Helmand, one of Afghanistan’s most war-ravaged provinces and lies roughly 400 miles (644km) south-west of Kabul.

Jalil Ahmed is brought in hardly breathing. His hands and feet have gone cold. He’s rushed through to the resuscitation room. His mother Markah says he’s two and a half years old, but he looks a lot tinier. He’s severely malnourished and has tuberculosis. Doctors work fast to revive him.

Markah watches in tears.

“I’m helpless as he suffers. I’ve spent the whole night scared that at any minute he’ll stop breathing,’ she says.

Space has to be made in an already full intensive care unit for little Jalil. A doctor carries him there in his arms, as a nurse follows holding up the bottles of fluid and medicines that are being injected into his body through multiple tubes.

There’s no time for the staff to stop. They must quickly put another baby, five-month-old Aqalah, back on oxygen. It’s her third time in hospital. Doctors say that a few hours earlier, they thought she wouldn’t make it, but right now, she’s just about holding on.

One in every five children admitted to critical care is dying, and the situation at the hospital has been made worse in recent weeks by the spread of the highly contagious measles disease that damages the body’s immune system, a deadly blow for babies already suffering from malnutrition.

The hospital, run by charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, is one of a handful of fully-functioning facilities in a province that’s home to around 1.5 million people. It’s completely overwhelmed. It has 300 beds, but is seeing around 800 patients a day, most of them children.

There’s almost nowhere else for people to turn to. Cutting off the foreign money which ran Afghanistan has dealt a double blow. It’s triggered an economic crisis that has brought an already poor population to the brink of starvation, and it’s led to the near collapse of the public healthcare system that it almost entirely funded before the Taliban takeover.

Child malnutrition has long been a problem in Afghanistan, but data collected by Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund) shows a massive surge in the number of children with severe acute malnutrition admitted to hospitals, from 2,407 in August 2021, to 4,214 in December 2021.

The increase can, in part, be attributed to it being safer to travel to hospitals now that the frontlines have gone, but also misses a large number of malnourished children not taken to hospital because their families cannot afford the journey. Even if they could, they’d need to travel for hours on rubble roads, and it would be hard to find a medical facility that’s not dysfunctional.

The Musa Qala and Gereshk district hospitals are overrun with malnourished children, but neither hospital has operational critical care. There are no female doctors. The hospital buildings are run-down, cold and dark. Electricity comes and goes. Night time temperatures drop to 4C.

In Gereshk a small heater hooked to a gas cylinder kept in the centre of the rooms provides barely any warmth. Mothers and babies sit huddled under blankets. The smell of disease hangs thick in the air.

At Musa Qala, when the breathing of another baby, one-and-a-half-year-old Walid, became irregular, he had to be carried through alleys and doorways to a decaying building next door which had the only oxygen cylinder we saw at the hospital.

The father of 10-day-old Zakiullah was sent out to find a saline drip solution in the market, because the hospital had no supplies.

Dr Aziz Ahmed who has worked at Gereshk hospital for more than a decade says they have few medicines and barely any staff, and yet have hundreds of patients coming in every day. They have to turn seriously ill children away because they don’t have the facilities to help them, and Dr Ahmed says some have died before they got to a fully functioning hospital.

He and the other staff didn’t receive salaries from August till October. From November, they and some other hospitals in the region have been receiving some payments through humanitarian organisations like Unicef, WHO (World Health Organization) and local charity Baran (Bu Ali Rehabilitation and Aid Network).

“The humanitarian family is just trying to provide a survival bridge for these children while the world figures out the politics, but we cannot fully fund the health system,” says Salam Janabi of Unicef.

“Don’t mix up children in politics. The moment here in Afghanistan is critical for children, and every decision the world makes, the politicians make, will impact them.”

When you travel through Helmand province, destruction caused by war can be seen in almost every area. The scale of it in Sangin town is particularly shocking.

There are swathes of land covered with debris and mud, where once homes and shops had stood. These areas are where foreign and Afghan troops encountered some of their fiercest battles and where British soldiers were posted.

Abdul Raziq is from a community that has lived on the frontline for decades.

“We are happy there is peace now, but we have no food, no work and no money. Wheat and fuel have become too expensive’, he says.

“Hundreds of children in my village are malnourished. In every house, you will find two or three. We have nothing to feed their mothers, that’s why they’re being born like this.”

In a mud home nearby lives Hameed Gul. Two of his daughters, Farzana and Nazdana, are malnourished. Nazdana is so ill he’s sent her to her grandparents because he’s unable to feed her. His 10-year-old son Naseebullah has already begun to work on the fields to help out.

The unending suffering of his family is the legacy of foreign actions, present and past. Hameed’s home was bombed in American airstrikes five years ago. Ten of his family, including his parents, six brothers and a sister were killed.

“We had no connection with the Taliban. My house was unjustly bombed. Neither the Americans, the previous government or the new one offered to help me,” Hameed says.

“We eat just dry bread. About two to three nights a week, we go to bed hungry.”

Everywhere we went, we asked what people had eaten that day. Most described sharing a few pieces of dry bread between whole families.

Children are the most vulnerable in this crisis of hunger. Afghanistan’s youngest generation is being left to die.

In many of the areas we visited, malnutrition deaths might not even get recorded or counted. The world might never know the scale of the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan.

Asian farmers turn to drones, apps for labour, climate challenges

BAN MAI, Thailand – As a child, Manit Boonkhiew watched his grandparents plough their rice farm near Bangkok with water buffaloes, and harvest by hand. His parents switched to tractors and threshers, while he now uses a zippy drone to spray pesticide in his field.

Manit, who grows rice, orchids and fruit trees on about 40 acres (16 hectares) of land in Ban Mai, is part of a community enterprise that recently acquired a drone under a Thai government programme to digitise agriculture.

Drones to plant seeds, and spray pesticide and fertilisers are growing in popularity in the Southeast Asian country as it grapples with a labour shortage that worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, with restrictions on movement of workers.

“Labour is the biggest challenge for us – it’s hard to get, and it’s expensive,” said Manit, 56, a leader of the Ban Mai Community Rice Centre farm that comprises 57 members with nearly 400 acres of land.

“With the drone, we not only save money on labour, we can also be more precise. It’s faster and safer, as we are not exposed to the chemicals, and it can help us deal with climate-change impacts such as less rain more easily,” he said.

The Ban Mai community is part of a wider transformation of agriculture in Asia Pacific, where artificial intelligence (AI) and big data are powering smartphones, robots and drones to improve farming techniques, boost crop yields and incomes.

The trend towards data-based precision agriculture and other digital tools is being driven by demographic changes, technological advances and climate change, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“They help farmers produce more with less water, land, inputs, energy and labour, while protecting biodiversity and reducing carbon emissions,” the FAO said in a report at a regional conference on digitalisation in agriculture this week.

“Farmers can optimise yields and obtain major cost savings, enhanced efficiency, and more profitability,” it said.

But agricultural technology – or agri-tech – also poses risks from job losses to social inequities and data governance concerns. The technologies can be costly and hard to adopt, particularly for women and older farmers, experts said.

“In India, there are far more pressing concerns that the government should be paying attention to,” said Nachiket Udupa with the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture.

“We’ve seen massive farmers’ protests in India on issues like the minimum support price and lack of support from the government. Drones are not the biggest issue for farmers,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


Worldwide, the rise of cloud computing and AI technologies have popularised the use of big data in numerous applications in agriculture – from irrigation controllers to services that capture and analyse data on the soil, weather and crop yields.

Asia Pacific is one of the fastest growing markets for digital farming information and marketplaces, fintech solutions, and blockchain technologies for food traceability.

But smallholders in Asia largely use only low-cost tools such as digital soil-testing kits and app-based or text-based services for weather forecasting because of cost barriers, skills gaps and regulatory bottlenecks, the FAO said.

Women too, face more constraints in accessing technologies.

In India, the average size of a land holding is less than 2 hectares, which does not lend itself to much mechanisation or digitisation – which are also expensive for most farmers, said Udupa.

There are about 20 million farmers in India who use some technology, a fraction of the nearly 500 million farmers in the country, said M. Haridas, co-founder of DataVal Analytics, that has an AI-based mobile app to provide real-time crop analysis.

“Data makes farming more democratic – even smallholders can access AI and machine learning to improve yields and returns,” he said.

“The biggest challenges are the lack of devices, lack of internet connectivity and lack of training,” he added.

To improve rural internet connectivity, the FAO’s “digital villages” initiative has teamed up with tech firms such as Microsoft and IBM in 1,000 sites worldwide, including in Nepal, Bangladesh, Fiji, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam.

“The aim is to use technology to advance and improve agriculture, nutrition, health and well-being of citizens, especially rural populations,” said Sridhar Dharmapuri, a senior food safety and nutrition officer at FAO, noting that this is particularly crucial after disruptions from COVID-19.

“As 4G services expand and 5G services are rolled out, the decreasing costs of smartphones and data are accelerating the adoption of digital tools, including among small holders and family farmers, therefore powering further inclusion” he added.


Despite regulatory hurdles and land fragmentation, the Asia-Pacific region is the fastest growing market for agricultural drones, according to the FAO, driven by local providers, falling prices, and rising labour costs.

Governments in the region are using drones, with satellite imagery, for weather forecasts, disaster management and crop insurance, as well as for monitoring and mapping crops strategic for food security, mostly rice.

In India, so-called kisan drones, or farmer drones, are to be used for crop damage assessment and digitisation of land records, which risks excluding women and tillers who are typically not named in land records, said Udupa.

“Land records are a mess in India – so using drones won’t solve the issue,” he said.

“Drones are largely being pushed as a means of greater mechanisation because there is a perception that farm labour is getting relatively expensive. But for the average small or marginal farmers, these technologies are simply unaffordable.”

In Thailand, the state digital economy promotion agency has, since 2020, given individual farmers a 10,000-baht ($306) grant for agri-tech, while community enterprises get a 300,000-baht grant.

In Ban Mai, a bright orange 10-litre agriculture drone from the agency sits in a black carton, waiting to be used as soon as some farmers get a licence to operate it.

In the meantime, the community has been hiring a drone from one of its members, who bought a 30-litre drone with his savings after battling constant labour shortages on his rice farm.

“A lot of people hire me to spray their farms, because they see how efficient and cost-effective it is,” said Sayan Thongthep, 52.

“I’m going to train my daughter also to operate the drone – it’s a good way to get youngsters interested in farming.”

Dr. Paul Farmer, aka ‘kenosis man,’ emptied himself in love and service to others

Dr. Paul Farmer sits with a young leukemia patient, Marta Cassmand, in Cange, Haiti, in January 2004. Marta’s father, Sanoit Valceus (foreground), had cut a tendon in his hand with a machete and was asking Farmer for advice. (Newscom/PSG/St. Petersburg Times/Daniel Wallace)

In the early morning hours of Feb. 20, 2022, a band of angels and saints, among them some familiar faces, made their way to a humble room in rural Rwanda to bring Paul Farmer home to God. The room was filled with light and peace and there was much joy and rejoicing in the heavens as God’s good and faithful servant entered the kingdom of God.

As the word of Farmer’s death quickly spread around the world, thousands upon thousands of people from all walks of life were shocked and heartbroken as they received the news of his untimely passing at the age of 62. Many knew Paul as friend, colleague, doctor, mentor and teacher, and, yes, as a personal hero. Still millions of others knew him through his exemplary reputation.

For his wonderful close-knit family — his mother, Ginny, his wife, Didi, his children, Catherine, Sebastian* and Elisabeth, and his siblings Jim, Jeff, Katie, Peggy and Jennifer — he was just “Dad” or “PJ” or “Bro,” and his death is a searing and irreversible loss.

The news of Farmer’s death has been reported widely in every major news outlet including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, and social media feeds in many languages. The accomplishments of his extraordinary life have been reported in detail using words like visionary, genius, humanity’s hero, a radical pioneer, fighter, poet and healer — just to name a few.

I have seen his 120-page curriculum vitae that details his educational successes at Duke University and Harvard Medical School; his exemplary academic, teaching and administration career; his prolific publishing history with a dozen books and hundreds of scholarly articles; and the long list of the many prestigious awards he received over the years, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and most recently the million-dollar Berggruen Prize (which he promptly gave away to the poor and then cheerfully quipped, “I was a millionaire for almost a week!”).

And of course, among his greatest achievements is the amazing nongovernmental organization Partners in Health that Paul founded more than 30 years ago with the late Tom White, and his dearest friends, Ophelia Dahl, Jim Kim and Todd McCormack. Partners in Health provides high-quality health care globally to those who need it most and strives to ease suffering by also providing access to food, transportation, housing and other key components of healing. It established clinics in Haiti and Rwanda and later expanded to Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Sierra Leone and the Navajo Nation in the United States.

I was Farmer’s spiritual director (or as he liked to joke, “his interior decorator”), and I can tell you that even these most impressive credentials pale in comparison to his interior life. To put it quite simply, Paul Farmer was a man of great faith who loved God wildly and with his whole heart, and he set the standard for loving his neighbor as himself.

Paul loved to give nicknames to his friends and even his patients. He affectionally called me his “BFF,” but sometimes his nicknames could be cryptic or could have even come across as irreverent if one didn’t understand the context and the love with which they were used. For example, “pus boy” was a young patient with a severe infection, and “land mine boy” was a young man injured by stepping on a landmine in post-genocide Rwanda — but these nicknames were always with said with an affection that mirrored the tender care he offered his patients.

Since Paul died, the quote from Philippians at the beginning of this essay keeps running through my head. The passage, of course, refers to the way Jesus did not cling to godliness but emptied himself unto death out of love for humanity — an emptying best expressed by the Greek word kenosis. And now “kenosis man” is my nickname for my beloved friend Paul, because he did not cling to prestige or wealth or reputation — no, he emptied himself, each and every day, in love and service to others, especially the world’s poorest people. Kenosis man, indeed.

Dominican Sr. Barbara Reid, president of Catholic Theological Union, told me it was her great privilege to moderate a discussion between Paul and his great friend and mentor Dominican Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, to launch their best-selling book, In the Company of the Poor.

Reid recounts, “The synergy between Paul and Gustavo was electric. There were more than 2,000 people at that gathering and most of them lined up to talk with Paul after the panel presentation. He stayed until every person who wanted to talk with him did so.”

That was Paul. I was with him on many occasions as we closed out many venues late at night after book signings or speeches where he stood for hours, for as long as he could, and then finally sat down when his leg — injured long ago in an accident, would start to ache. He always chatted in an unhurried manner with every person who had patiently stood in line to meet him, and now I am so glad for the thousands of pictures of Paul I took with young people — whom he often referred to as “his retirement plan.” I am sure these photos are now treasured relics.

Paul loved to be around nuns and priests and he very much admired Reid for her graciousness and her academic rigor. Sometimes he would say, “Wow! Did she really edit a hundred-volume Scripture series?”

Reid was right on point when she noted, “Paul had a way of making every person he ever met feel like they were among his best friends. He gave everyone that kind of attention, a most extraordinary gift. He truly had an enormous impact on me and I’m sure everyone else who was part of his life in any way would say the same.”

The last years of Paul’s life were very happy. The pandemic gave him long stretches of months at a time at home with his family engaged in ordinary activities — making dinner and playing Scrabble with his children, watching movies, and sometimes grocery shopping and driving his daughter to her swim lessons. He even spent a few weekends away with his beautiful wife, Didi, whom he greatly admired for her work with the Women and Girls Initiative she founded in Haiti.

In between endless Zoom sessions for teaching and meetings, he was able to carve out long hours of silence, of planting in his garden, of sitting at his koi pond nurturing his contemplative leanings. In the past months, I sensed a profound growth of his religious imagination.

He was in Rwanda for the last month of his life doing want he loved best: teaching and seeing patients. The comments and emails that he sent me during the last weeks of his life were filled with pictures of his patients with requests for prayers and updates on their conditions. The last pictures he sent me showed him sitting on the bed with a beautiful little girl named Josiane who was being treated for cancer. He was so happy that he had made her smile.

He had lost a patient just a few days ago, a young man named Faustin. He had sent me a picture of him a few days earlier to ask for prayers and told me there was a “sliver of hope.” He was so sad when he wrote and told me, “We lost Faustin at midnight.”

He sent me a picture of him with Faustin’s father and a forlorn image of four men carrying Faustin’s casket. I told him that his accompaniment of Faustin and his family was a sign of God’s love and mercy.

I was supposed to have been on this trip with Paul, but we put it off because of the omicron situation. When I said I wished I was there with him and asked if he was OK, his response was: “But you are here because you know. I am OK deep down and love this work so much.”

There are so many images throughout the years of Paul with his patients throughout the world — young and old people — many of whom he gave many extra years of life. His love and his compassion for all of humanity is the subtext of all these beautiful photos. Really, is it any wonder that his heart gave out?

Paul loved his work, his patients, his wife and his children, his mother and his siblings, and his many friends around the globe fiercely and unconditionally. Both publicly and privately, thousands of people are grief-stricken by trying to imagine our lives without Paul. For me, I know with great certainty that he is with God, and I actually know, too, that he is happy and in good spirits.

Jesuit Fr. Jim Keenan of Boston College was a great friend of Paul’s for many years and they shared much in common — they were both gifted intellectuals and writers with deeply moral compasses, and an especially an uncommon dedication to their students. When I asked Jim for a comment for this obituary, I was not surprised how he captured the essence of Paul’s spirit.

“From the very first time I met Paul some 20 years ago, I always thought of him as playful; it was that playfulness that made him so accessible. By that playfulness, he made you believe that you were fun to be with. He helped you, wherever you were, to laugh. That playfulness was infectious. He helped each of us to be childlike,” Keenan said.

“I am not trying to romanticize his work or his death,” he added. “To know Paul was to know a man who faced disease and death more than anyone we knew. He was fearless; if for instance, you read his recent book on Ebola, Fevers, Feuds and Diamonds, you knew how incredibly courageous he was.”

“It is said that what makes us vulnerable to one another is when we recognize the child in each other,” Keenan said. “Paul saw the world as a world of children. Against the backdrop of disease, threat and death he wanted the children to flourish. And that was all of us. I imagine he is right now playing with God. And, I imagine, everyone else around the kingdom of God is watching. And they are probably thinking that he’s helping God to feel that God is fun to be with.”

Although I believe that Paul is happy and in good spirits, I also know that for me, and so many others, his passing leaves a massive void. We will miss Paul for the rest of our lives. I pray that we can all dig deep and enter this void with grace and courage by trying to emulate Paul, so we too, might someday laugh with him in the kingdom of God.

What now? For sure, we must go forward with hope and courage — Paul would expect nothing else and, believe me, no one in his orbit would want to disappoint Paul. But I feel I must share some comments that I have received in the three long days since Paul died. More than one person has told me that when they started to pray for Paul, they felt themselves shifting and beginning to pray to Paul.

One of these people, the internationally known Dominican theologian Fr. Vivian Boland, wrote to say: “I was very saddened to read about the sudden death of Paul Farmer. It was one of the highlights of my time at St. Louis to learn about his work and then to have the honor of meeting him. I remembered him and his family at Mass this morning. In fact, I prayed ‘to‘ him and not just ‘for‘ him, believing him to be already among the saints, asking him to intercede for a little girl called Martha, whom I was also praying for this morning: she is just 2 years old and has been living with cancer for practically all of her short life. I hope her recovery might be Paul’s first miracle!”

In the Catholic tradition, we know that one of the signs that mark a saint is when people begin to pray to them for their intercessions. Paul would be the last person who would ever have thought of himself as a saint. He was far too aware of his faults and human failings, and, like most of us, he knew he had many.

He would likely have chuckled and shrugged his shoulders, but then turned serious and said something like, “Hey, if it will make people think how they make a preferential option for the poor and work together to build the kingdom of God in the here and now, call me anything you want.”

Rest in peace, kenosis man. Thank you for drawing all of us closer to the kingdom of God. And please, Paul, pray for us so we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Nuns in Ukraine rescue, escort stranded foreign students to border

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Saint-Marc at Mukachevo, Ukraine, serve food to rescued foreign students before helping them to cross the border. (Courtesy of Ligi Payyappilly)

An Indian Catholic nun and her associates are working round-the-clock to help stranded students and others fleeing war-torn Ukraine.

“God is using me to save people from death in Ukraine,” said Sr. Ligi Payyappilly, the 48-year-old superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Saint-Marc in Mukachevo, Ukraine.*

Payyappilly, who is Indian, and 17 sisters of her congregation are giving shelter and food to the distressed students, besides helping them cross the Ukrainian border to escape to countries including Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.

“Being in Ukraine for over 20 years, I have a lot of contacts and networks that helped me carry out this mission so far,” Payyappilly told GSR by phone after midnight March 3, just before her scheduled two-hour sleep. Her convent in Mukachevo in western Ukraine is some 480 miles southwest of the national capital of Kiev.

People helped by Payyappilly’s team profusely thanked the nuns.

“We never thought we would be alive now,” said Vignesh Suresh, a third-year student of medicine who hails Payyappilly as “God’s angel who came to help us when we were totally lost.”

Speaking to GSR en route to Bucharest by train, Suresh said he and 45 other Indian students were stranded at the Polish border for 15 hours when Payyappilly and Sr. Christina Tymurzhina, a Ukrainian, came to help them.

“The sisters took us to their convent in their vehicles, hugged each of us with their love and warmth, gave us food, a warm hall to sleep in and escorted us in the morning to cross the Romania border,” Suresh said as his friends slept on the train.

Payyappilly said Suresh was among about 1,000 foreign students her convent has helped so far.

Other congregations are also involved in rescue operations but they mostly help fleeing Ukrainians, whose numbers have reached more than 1 million, according to U.N. estimates.

Other congregations have shared Payyappilly’s contact numbers with the foreign students stranded at various locations. “Since there were many to support Ukrainians, we opted to help foreign students, a lot of them being Indians,” Payyappilly explained.

Since the start of the war Feb. 24, the Russians have targeted Kiev and Kharkiv, the second largest Ukrainian city, killing at least 752 civilians and triggering mass exodus, according to the U.N. estimates. Unverified reports from the Ukrainian government put the toll at several thousands.

Russia, meanwhile, confirmed March 2 that about 500 Russian troops have died and 1,600 have been injured, National Public Radio reported.

Payyappilly said she could reach out to the stranded students because she knows “every nook and corner” of Ukraine.

India initially helped the rescue operations for about 20,000 Indians, many of them students, through its embassy in Kiev, which was closed as the two cities were targeted. It then asked students to reach the border on their own. Many students have walked at least three days to reach the Polish border, but they were not allowed to cross.

“There were cases of police stopping foreigners from boarding trains to help Ukrainian women and children reach safer locations first,” Payyappilly said, quoting students and media reports. She acknowledged that she could help evacuate the foreign students only because of aid from Ukrainian citizens.

Payyappilly is also a retreat preacher; people throughout Ukraine used to come to her convent and an adjacent retreat center for prayer. “People know me well,” she said.

Many Ukrainian refugees stay at the convent, which they consider a relatively safer place, instead of going to another country.

The Ukrainian government had recognized the contributions of Payyappilly, a native of Kerala state in India, and made her a citizen.

Payyappilly says all her sisters in Ukraine are involved in helping the stranded. “Some work in the field, some cook and others bring the students to the convent and the border in vehicles.” Many arrange for the fugitives to stay at the convent.

Tymurzhina has coordinated several evacuation tasks through her contacts with government officers and volunteers.

“Both of us drove the students to the border, coordinated with the volunteers and the Indian embassy officers at the borders of Romania, Hungary and Slovakia and facilitated their easy passage to those countries,” Payyappilly said.

The superior said about 100 Ukrainian fugitives are staying with them. “We are not sure when they would return to their places,” she said. “But the students stay with us for only a night,” she added.

She said most students reached them in a desperate state. “They had not bathed for many days or eaten food. They were mentally shocked and physically weak. So, our first priority was to give them a comfortable stay before taking them to the border,” Payyappilly said.

Their convent, which is two or three dozen miles to the border with Romania and Hungary, has been so far.

Payyappilly said the sisters are flooded with phone calls from panicked parents after a Catholic website in Kerala published information about their services.

The students have shared the nuns’ hospitality and support through audio and video clips on social media platforms.

In an audio clip to the nuns, the mother of Vishnu Manoharan, a Hindu boy, says she is indebted to them for the “motherly loving care for our children” when they were in deep crises.

She also hailed the nuns as “truly God’s messengers” on whom God’s blessings will remain always.

Meanwhile, Suresh and his team reached Bucharest in Romania and was on the way to a shelter home. He said another convent inside Romania helped them with food, water and immigration procedures. “It was another miracle,” he added.

Payyappilly said once the people cross the border safely, they consider the mission accomplished and look for other lost ones in Ukraine. “So, we never attend their ‘thank you calls,’ but attend only the calls in distress,” she said. “God had saved me from death 20 years ago and is using me now to help others from deaths in Ukraine.”

Payyappilly was severely affected by chronic spinal tuberculosis and was suffering in bed for almost a year until “God touched and healed me.”

She recalls praying almost 10 hours a day before the Blessed Sacrament during her illness. “I have enough strength to attend to many more people in Ukraine now,” she said during the hourlong telephone interview.

The convent in Ukraine was started in 1998; Payyappilly has served there for the past 22 years. Her preaching at retreats has drawn many young Ukrainian women to her congregation. Currently, 15 Ukrainian nuns serve in various ministries.

“We have never done any vocation promotion camps or recruitments, but they came on their own,” Payyappilly said. All Ukrainian nuns are professionally qualified in various fields, she said. The convent also has two more Indian nuns.

New UN report ‘rings the latest alarm bell’ about climate change effects on nature and people

A man collects water from the Athi River near Yathui, Kenya, Oct. 27, 2021. He will use the water to irrigate crops on dry farmland. Erratic climate patterns across the African continent, including droughts and typhoons, are disrupting people’s lives, especially the poor and most vulnerable. (CNS/Fredrick Nzwili)

The picture emerging from this week’s major scientific report on climate change reaffirmed what Catholic development agencies have observed across the globe for years and they say supports their calls for transformational measures to reverse course and limit the suffering.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, on Feb. 28 issued a sweeping report on the present and future impacts of climate change, which it said “has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability.” Those impacts have disproportionately impacted the world’s most vulnerable people and systems, it added, and has pushed some beyond their ability to adapt.

Still, the report emphasized that humanity has the ability to change course, and that greater efforts to adapt to rising temperatures can blunt suffering. Each degree of warming avoided can lower the loss of lives and economic and social costs.

“Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all,” the report authors said.

Prepared by 270 authors, the 3,600-page report reviewed thousands of scientific studies on climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. It is the second issued by the IPCC in the past six months; the first focused on the physical science of climate change. A third report, on climate mitigation, will be released in April. All three are part of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report, prepared to guide governments in their responses to climate change.

The report found that nearly every part of the globe and every facet of society has been impacted by climate change. It estimated more than 3 billion people live in areas highly vulnerable to climate change, and millions now face food insecurity due to rising temperatures.

In a statement, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns said the report “rings the latest alarm bell” for urgent action to curb global warming but also respond to mounting loss and damages.

“With a report like this, world leaders cannot say they didn’t know a deadly future is at hand,” said Chloe Noel, the faith, economy and ecology project coordinator for Maryknoll. She added it “exposes what the world can no longer deny — the incalculable loss of life, culture, livelihoods and biodiversity from the climate crisis.”

“How many crystal-clear red alerts on the climate crisis do we need before we take the urgent and meaningful action?” Neil Thorns, director of advocacy for CAFOD, the overseas development agency for the bishops in England and Wales, said in a statement.

Already, the planet has heated roughly 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Government plans to reduce emissions project to hold average temperature rise to 2.7 C — well above the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement to limit global warming, which are “well below” 2 C and ideally 1.5 C. Some parts of the globe have already seen temperatures exceed the 1.5 C threshold.

Regions especially vulnerable to climate impacts — such as vast parts of Africa, South Asia, Central and South America, and island nations — are often parts of the world facing development constraints and where poverty, governance challenges and limited access to resources are prevalent, the report said.

The authors added that actions in the next two decades to hold temperature rise to 1.5 C “would substantially reduce projected losses and damages related to climate change in human systems and ecosystems” though not fully eliminate them. For instance, the difference between 1.5 C and 2 C could be 65 million fewer people exposed to extreme heat events every five years.

While effective adaptation is occurring, it’s often uneven, the report said, and more often efforts have prioritized reducing immediate risks over more transformational changes necessary to bend the curve in greenhouse gas emissions downward.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the report “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”

CAFOD and other Catholic development agencies said the report reinforces the need to meet the 1.5 C goal in the Paris Agreement, and also for governments to prioritize adaptation measures and financial compensation for loss and damages that have occurred.

“Climate change is real for us,” said Bishop Peter Kihara Kariuki of Marsabit, Kenya, in a press release from CAFOD.

Parts of his north Kenyan region face severe drought, he said, and some people walk miles to the nearest water source.

“Suffering from the impacts of climate change, they are now dependent on aid from the church, the government, and NGOs for the basics of life: to be able to eat and drink clean water,” Kariuki said.

The IPCC report stated that Africa, while responsible for just 3% of global greenhouse emissions, faces disproportionate risks, including more than half of excess deaths from climate-related illnesses and far greater exposure to extreme heat compared to other continents.

More erratic climate patterns across the African continent, including droughts and typhoons, are “creating so much havoc on many people’s lives, especially the poor and most vulnerable,” Fr. Germain Rajoelison of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar said in a press release issued by CIDSE, a network of mostly European-based Catholic development agencies.

“Many of them are reaching the limits of adaptation,” he added.

CIDSE called on governments to adopt “urgent and transformative measures” to combat climate change, including greater use of agroecology techniques, increased climate finance and for nations to submit new climate pledges in line with the 1.5 C target.

Noel of Maryknoll said that the U.S., as the largest historical emitter and richest nation, has particular responsibility to lead not just in mitigating climate change by rapidly transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy but also by helping communities and countries that are facing increasing droughts, flooding and extreme weather now.

She added that remaining dependent on burning fossil fuels for energy — the primary driver of climate change — not only puts the 1.5 C target further out of reach but “will continue to fuel violent conflicts, as we are seeing play out around the world today.”

The Laudato Si’ Movement said the IPCC report shows that addressing climate change must go hand in hand with efforts to safeguard biodiversity. The coalition of nearly 800 Catholic organizations encouraged Catholics to sign onto its Healthy Planet, Healthy People petition, a copy of which was delivered to world leaders at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow and which will also be shared at the upcoming COP15 U.N. biodiversity conference scheduled for the spring in Kunming, China.

The IPCC report noted that less than 15% of land, 21% of freshwater and 8% of oceans are considered protected areas, and even in those locations, “there is insufficient stewardship to contribute to reducing damage from, or increasing resilience to, climate change.”

The report found that between 3% and 14% of species face “very high risk of extinction” under a 1.5 C scenario, with more at risk as temperatures rise. The authors wrote that “safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystems is fundamental to climate resilient development, in light of the threats climate change poses to them and their roles in adaptation and mitigation.”

In a press release issued by Laudato Si’ Movement, Salesian Fr. Joshtrom Kureethadam, coordinator of the ecology and creation sector for the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said the IPCC report “makes painfully clear that the cry of the Earth is at its highest pitch yet.”

“God’s creation is groaning for our help, and God’s creation is ready to help us, but only if we are able to look beyond ourselves and care for our common home as Pope Francis calls us to do in Laudato Si’,” he said.

UN wants faith groups to help work against plastic pollution

A woman uses a net to sort recyclable plastic materials from a dumping site in Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 1, 2022. (CNS/Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

NAIROBI, Kenya — A senior U.N. official urged religious groups to help reach a global agreement to curb plastic pollution, amid experts warning that single-use or disposable plastics were choking the planet.

Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, spoke during the interfaith online dialogue sessions on religion and ecology organized by the U.N. body.

The sessions, known as Faith for Earth Dialogue, run Feb. 21–March 5. They are being held alongside the fifth session of the U.N. Environment Assembly in Nairobi. The assembly also will mark the 50th anniversary of the environment program.

“We have a suggested resolution before the member states, for starting a global agreement to end plastic pollution — to reduce the use of plastic from source to sea. We hope UNEA will be that historical milestone as the Paris Agreement was for the climate. And we hope and trust and pray with your strong engagement, you will help get us there,” said Andersen.

According to the UNEP, 1 million plastic drinking water bottles are purchased every minute, while 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. Half of the plastics are designed to be used once and thrown away.

Andersen, a Danish economist and environmentalist, said when the faith community is mobilized to act on science, the world shifts.

“The power of faith communities is enormous. It’s worth reckoning with. The power of the faith communities in economic reach is not to be underestimated,” she said.

Recently, religions have joined the efforts to protect the planet, highlighting more strongly the negative impacts of climate change and for the conservation of the environment and ecology. From divesting from fossil fuel to challenging massive oil and gas projects, faith-based groups have led in tree planting and promoted better farming methods to conserve the environment. They also are key educators in environmental protection and conservation.

Officials say this is the largest-ever interfaith dialogue on religion and ecology, with 180 speakers and 20 sessions. It was organized by 94 faith-based organizations representing more than 50 religions from 74 countries. Christian denominations — including several Catholic organizations and networks — Islamic and Hindu faith groups are participating in the discussion.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, former prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said the conversations in the online conference underlined Pope Francis’ urgent call to religious leaders and people of goodwill in his 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’” to care for the planet before it’s too late.

“He (Pope Francis) said I urgently appeal for a new dialogue about how we shape our planet. That’s what we are doing now,” said Cardinal Turkson. He had outlined how the dicastery had developed principles to put the encyclical into practice.

“The dicastery decided to move ‘Laudato Si’‘ to concrete applications and we formulated … the Laudato Si’ Platform,” to encourage the connectivity of all peoples of the world, he said.

The cardinal said the method includes identifying seven actors, then formulating seven goals and establishing in seven years ways to implement the demands of “Laudato Si’.” Some of the actors can include families, parishes and dioceses. Mosques, synagogues, religious places of worship, educational institutions and schools also are invited.

Cardinal Turkson said adoption of new lifestyles is something within everyone’s reach: avoiding single use plastics, avoiding meat consumption, greater use of public transport.

“We know what our Scriptures encourage us to do. The ecology is sensitive, but it’s the time we move from all motivational talks to concrete and measurable programs and actions,” said the cardinal.

The Faith for Earth Dialogue is seeking to demonstrate the power and potential of faith-based organizations and faith leaders in shaping discussions at the UNEA as well as engaging in dialogue with other stakeholders, including governments, organizations, cities and businesses.

“Religions must — this our responsibility to respective religions and traditions — care for God’s creation. There is a critical fundamental obligation,” said Rabbi David Rosen, the international director of interreligious affairs at the American Jewish Committee.

Climate change to make world sicker, poorer: UN report

The report warns if warming exceeds a few more tenths of a degree, it could lead to some areas becoming uninhabitable [Mahmud Hossain Opu/AP]

Climate change is likely going to make the world sicker, hungrier, poorer and way more dangerous by 2040 with an “unavoidable” increase in risks, a new United Nations science report has said, warning that there remained only “a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) study on Monday said if human-caused global warming was not limited to just another couple tenths of a degree, an Earth now struck regularly by deadly heat, fires, floods and drought in future decades will degrade in 127 ways – with some being “potentially irreversible”.

Delaying cuts in heat-trapping carbon emissions and waiting on adapting to warming’s impacts, it warns, “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”.

Children today who may still be alive in the year 2100 are going to experience four times more climate extremes than they do now even with only a few more tenths of a degree of warming over today’s heat. But if temperatures increase nearly two more degrees Celsius from now (3.4 degrees Fahrenheit), they would feel five times the floods, storms, drought and heatwaves, according to the collection of scientists at the IPCC.

Already, at least 3.3 billion people’s daily lives “are highly vulnerable to climate change” and 15 times more likely to die from extreme weather, the report said.

Large numbers of people are being displaced by worsening weather extremes. And the world’s poor are being hit by far the hardest, it said. More people are going to die each year from heatwaves, diseases, extreme weather, air pollution and starvation because of global warming, the report added.

How many people die depends on how much heat-trapping gas from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas gets spewed into the air and how the world adapts to an ever-hotter world, the scientists said.

“Climate change is killing people,” said co-author Helen Adams of King’s College London. “Yes, things are bad, but actually the future depends on us, not the climate.”

By 2050, a billion people will face coastal flooding risk from rising seas, the report said. More people will be forced out of their homes from weather disasters, especially flooding, sea level rise and tropical cyclones.

If warming exceeds a few more tenths of a degree, it could lead to some areas becoming uninhabitable, including some small islands, said report co-author Adelle Thomas of the University of Bahamas and Climate Analytics.

And eventually in some places it will become too hot for people to work outdoors, which will be a problem for raising crops, said report co-author Rachel Bezner Kerr of Cornell University.

Following the release of the report, UN chief Antonio Guterres blasted world powers for a “criminal” abdication of leadership.

“Nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone – now. Many ecosystems are at the point of no return – now,” said Guterres.

“This abdication of leadership is criminal. The world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home.”