WaterAid animations reveal devastation of climate change in words of those affected

WaterAid: profiles people including Teodora Nzingo from Tanzania
WaterAid: profiles people including Teodora Nzingo from Tanzania

Campaign, created by Don’t Panic, contrasts sometimes flippant attitudes with reality of life in Malawi, Nepal and Tanzania.

COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference that takes place in Glasgow, is less than three months away, and on Saturday, Alok Sharma, the UK minister in charge of the talks, warned the world faced “catastrophe” if decisive action was not taken.

But the reality is that catastrophe is already here in many parts of the world. Australia and California, among the world’s wealthiest places, have experienced increasing destruction from wildfires over the past two years. But in some of the world’s poorer countries, the situation is even more urgent, with increased temperatures and extreme weather threatening water sources and food production.

That’s the message in a new campaign for WaterAid created by Don’t Panic, which comprises a trio of animations produced by Strange Beast under the banner "Climate stories". Each one opens with a character who fails to take the threat to life seriously – from a woman on a rubber ring in a pool saying “Climate change is lovely though isn’t it?” to a dressing-gown-clad man reading the paper, who asks: “We’ve got plenty of time to reverse climate change. Haven’t we?”

Each films then zooms in on an isolated character who relates the impact of climate change on their own home and community in stark, simple language. “When you look around, all you see is dried grass and cracked soil bed. A sign of no life,” Belita Fenek, a market trader from Lake Chilwa in Malawi, says.

“Four houses have been completely swept away by the landslide,” Govinda Buthapa, an engineer from Dolakha, Nepal, reveals. “One of the water sources was completely covered up.”

And from Teodora Nzigno, a farmer in Kigamboni, Tanzania: “I am near 80 years old. I was a farmer but now I don’t have any job because of the floods. It never used to rain like it does these days.”

Commenting on the production of the campaign, George McCallum, associate creative director at Don’t Panic, said the “truly sobering thing” about the process had been “how easy it was to find these harrowing stories”. He added: "There are so many millions who lack the most basic means to survive climate change: water.”

The campaign was created by McCallum and Rick Dodds, and the animation was directed by Ivyy Chen. The films are distributed by WaterAid’s media agency, The Kite Factory, and will run on TV from 11 August, supported by social media and YouTube.

Johnty Gray, mass engagement director at WaterAid, said: “Climate change is happening now and it’s making it even harder for the world’s poorest people to get clean water. Our new animation series highlights the experiences of those living with the daily reality of climate change such as floods, drought and extreme weather.

“The campaign is part of WaterAid’s journey of change in our advertising which started with our animation, 'The girl who built a rocket'. We want to encourage people to visit our website to understand what we do and why, as we believe this will increase consideration for our work, leading to more sustained support.”

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