UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Emtithal Mahmoud calls for urgent global action in new poem highlighting impact of climate change on humankind

World champion poet, Emtithal Mahmoud released an emotive poem on the 8th November, bringing awareness to the devastating impact that climate change is having on humankind, particularly on displaced people. It coincides with her attendance at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, this week at which she is representing refugees around the world in her role as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and as a former refugee herself.

Emtithal, known as “Emi”, wrote the poem Di Baladna which means Our Land in Arabic, following a series of discussions with refugees living on the front lines of the climate crisis in Bangladesh, Cameroon, and Jordan. The individuals she spoke to represent millions of displaced and stateless people around the world who are currently living in climate vulnerable “hotspots” and adapting to an increasingly inhospitable environment, despite the limited resources.

Today and tomorrow, Emi will be attending COP 26 , speaking on several panels, and performing the poem at multiple events in the Presidency Programme. She is calling for urgent action from States to include vulnerable communities most in need of support in all possible efforts to curb the devastating humanitarian consequences of the climate emergency.

Mahmoud commented, “We must act now; swiftly, tangibly and decisively in full collaboration with people on the ground to support and bolster their ongoing efforts to combat climate change. Regardless of our background and existing situations, we all have a duty to protect one another and our future generations.”

Calling out to the world for action, Di Baladna opens from the perspective of Mother Earth, describing the damages she has endured and the negative impact this has on mankind. The poem then switches to first person to specifically address the devastating consequences climate change is having on refugees and vulnerable populations. Di Baladna reads: “At 11 years old, I saw my neighbour’s house crumble before my eyes […] our country was already locked in turmoil and now the earth began to purge us too”.

Released today by UNHCR, a video version of Di Baladna features Emi walking through Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan which is a region increasingly affected by climate change, but also learning to adapt and affect change. Having engaged with those whose lives have been negatively impacted by climate change and witnessed these effects, Emi is using this video, and attending COP26, to amplify voices of the over 82 million people forcibly displaced around the world. Emi wants to use her poem to emphasize the human toll of the climate crisis which needs to be addressed now.

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