The deadly impact of climate change on children
Extreme weather events around the world - including record droughts in Australia, floods in southern India and heatwaves across much of the northern hemisphere - are putting children in immediate danger and threatening their futures.
©UNICEF/UN0224045/Sokhin

Here in Australia, large parts of New South Wales and Queensland are enduring what has been referred to as "the worst drought in living memory". While Aussie farmers continue to suffer as a consequence of the drought, similarly, large parts of the globe have experienced injury and death, environmental damage and widespread loss to livelihoods including harvest as a result of climate change.

"In any crisis, children are among the most vulnerable and the extreme weather events we are seeing around the world are no exception," says Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Director of Programs. 

"Over the past few months, we have seen a stark vision of the world we are creating for future generations. As more extreme weather events increase the number of emergencies and humanitarian crises, it is the children who pay the highest price."

©UNICEF/UN0224048/Sokhin
While individual weather events cannot specifically be attributed to climate change, the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather are in line with predictions of how human activities are affecting the global climate. 

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the young people of Kiribati are experiencing a disaster that is slowly and steadily eroding their culture and home. Every day and night, the region's low-lying atolls are pounded by waves causing coastal erosion as the surrounding sea levels rise. Since the 1970s, erosion has become such a problem that major parts of villages have had to be abandoned. Children have had to leave their homes, communities and their schools. 

In South Sudan, children are suffering another extreme weather recent - a drought that is crippling food production, depleting pastures and causing widespread deaths. More than half of South Sudan's population is suffering from severe food shortages. Unless treatment for malnutrition is scaled up immediately, thousands of children are likely to die
©UN057615/Knowles-Coursin

"We lost all our harvest this year because
there was no good rain and the little
food we have can't feed us for one
more month."- Anyang,19, pictured above in South Sudan

This is why UNICEF if working globally towards: 
 
  • Strengthening health services (including mental health) to respond to a changing climate and more frequent extreme weather events and to lessen longer-term impacts for children
  • Increasing access to education through constructing buildings that can withstand disasters and using renewable energy
  • Putting in place systems for protecting children who have lost their homes and families, or become migrants or refugees, as a result of events related to climate change
  • Providing young people with climate change education and training so they understand environmental responses and early warning systems
  • Advocating for the rights and vulnerabilities of children to be included in planning for climate change
  • Increasing understanding of the links between climate change and the psychological, developmental, economic and longer term impacts of children
  • Boosting investment in climate resilient agriculture, water and sanitation services
  • Driving planning and policy work that will assist communities to adapt to, prepare for and recover from climate change and the disasters it could cause
As these extreme climate events grow in frequency and magnitude, globally we will become increasingly unable to respond. 
 
"As the world experiences a steady
rise in climate-drive extreme weather
events, it is children's lives and futures
that will be most disrupted." - Chaiban

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