Yaounde, 11 November 2021- It is now fully established that the effects of climate change impact greatly the health, education and protection of children worldwide. Those in Central African Republic, Chad, and Nigeria are among the most at risk as indicated by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in their first ever comprehensive analysis of climate risk from a child’s perspective.
“One billion children – nearly half the world’s 2.2 billion children are at ‘extremely high risk’ of the impact of climate change according to the report.
The Children’s Climate Risk Index is an essential document that will guide actions geared towards securing a safe future for children.
“For the first time, we have a complete picture of where and how children are vulnerable to climate change, and the picture is almost unimaginably dire. Climate and environmental shocks are undermining the complete spectrum of children’s rights, from access to clean air, food and safe water; to education, housing, freedom from exploitation, and even their rights to survive. Virtually no child’s life will be unaffected.” Said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
Climate change puts children’s most basic rights at risk. This mean a reduced chance of a happy, healthy future for an even greater number of children. When floods hit, schools and health clinics are destroyed for instance.
“Climate change isn’t simply a political or economic issue. It’s a human rights issue, perhaps the biggest one in human history. If we continue spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we not only destroy ecosystems and drive species to extinction, we indirectly violate human rights.” The United Nations Environment Programme outlined in their 2015 Climate Change and Human Rights Report.
The situation is more serious that Human Rights activists have not been left indifferent.
Famous Climate activist and indigenous hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, once told Earth Day Network that;
“For us, this is about our survival. This is not just about our future, our future generation. This is about the lives that are being lost today and the people that are being displaced today.”
In their 75 years of existence besides children across the world, UNICEF strongly believe there is urgent need to re-invent the future for children, and that can only be done if there is a change of policies from governments across the world on how they tackle climate issues.
Aware of the fact that climate change is deeply inequitable, the Executive Director of UNICEF said, while no child is responsible for rising global temperatures, they will pay the highest cost. But there is still time to act.
“Improving children’s access to essential services such as water and sanitation, health, and education, can significantly increase their ability to survive these climate hazards. UNICEF urges governments and businesses to listen to children and prioritise actions that protect them from impact, while accelerating work to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Henrietta Fore, said.
It is often said that children are the leaders of tomorrow, but for the leaders of tomorrow to deliver appropriately, they need to be equipped with the necessary skills and know-how. Owing to the present climate challenges which will greatly impact the future of children, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), wants total implication of children in the fight against.
“Countries must provide children with climate education and green skills, critical for their adaptation to and preparation for the effects of climate change. Young people should be included in all national, regional and international climate negotiations and decisions. They must also be included in all climate related decision making.” UNICEF tells governments, promising to always stand by with meaningful assistance.
Worth noting is the fact that according to the first ever Children’s Climate Risk Index, 240 million children are highly exposed to coastal flooding; 330 million children are highly exposed to riverine flooding; 400 million children are highly exposed to cyclones; 600 million children are highly exposed to vector bone diseases, 815 million children are highly exposed to lead pollution, 820 million children are highly exposed to heatwaves, 920 million children are highly exposed to water scarcity with about half the population of children exposed to air pollution.
The report also reveals a disconnect between where greenhouse gas emissions are generated and where children are enduring the most significant climate-driven impacts.
“Sadly, there probably would have been more urgency if the people that were dying first in the largest numbers were people in the most powerful countries.” Said Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Kumi Naidoo.
Women and children are 14 times more likely to die in climate change disasters, according to the U.N. Women make up most of the world’s poor, and women tend to rely more heavily on natural resources for their livelihoods and societal gender roles.
It is thus clear that the climate crisis is a child’s right crisis. UNICEF holds it that there is urgent need for all to strive to join the global movement to put child and adolescent health and well-being at the core of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.