UNICEF has acknowledged that extreme climate-related disasters such as floods, wildfires and heatwaves are putting children in immediate danger while also jeopardizing their future. Thus, UNICEF urges governments to take concrete steps to safeguard children’s future and their rights.
According to UNICEF, the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather - including recent high temperatures, intense rains and slow-moving weather fronts - are in line with predictions of how human activities are affecting the global climate. These events can cause death and devastation, and can also contribute to the increased spread of major killers of children, such as malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea.
With regard to heatwaves, children are especially at risk as they are unable to regulate their body temperature and control their surrounding environment. Particularly vulnerable are children under 12 months. In addition, infants and small children are more likely to die or suffer from heatstroke. Floods threaten children’s survival and development, especially compromise safe water supplies, damage sanitation facilities. Floods also increase the risk of diarrhoea and other disease outbreaks. In the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, floods impact children’s access to education and adequate housing. Droughts can lead to crop failure, livestock deaths and loss of income. Together with inequitable access to water, droughts can result in migration and social disorder, with children among the most vulnerable to the consequences of these effects.
“In any crisis, children are among the most vulnerable, and the extreme weather events we are seeing around the world are no exception. 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 children who will pay the highest price,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Director of Programmes.
Thus, UNICEF’s agenda for action on climate change includes:
a) Strengthening health systems to respond to a changing climate and more frequent extreme weather events;
b) Increasing the ability of educational services to be delivered in the aftermath of extreme weather events;
c) Increasing investment in and delivery of climate resilient agricultural, water and sanitation services;
d) Putting in place measures to protect children who have been displaced, migrate or are refugees as a result of climate change or climate-related impacts;
e) Providing children and youth with climate change education and training to take advantage of the opportunities in climate and environmental response;
f) Aligning and coordinating work on climate change adaptation, preparedness and disaster risk reduction;
g) Advocating for the rights and vulnerabilities of children to be reflected in national strategies, commitments and action plans;
h) Increasing understanding of the links between climate change and impacts on children;
i) Deepen the evidence base on the links not only between climate action and global weather events but also between a low-carbon economy and the potential for employment generation, local air pollution and national energy security.