«The climate crisis threatens to roll back progress on children’s rights without urgent and sufficient investment in solutions that benefit the most vulnerable children,» Unicef said when the UN Climate Change Conference COP25 enters its second week.
«From hurricanes to droughts, floods and wildfires, the consequences of the climate crisis surround us, affecting children and threatening their health, education, protection and survival,» said Gautam Narasimhan, Senior Adviser to Unicef on climate change, energy and the environment.
«Children are essential actors in responding to the climate crisis. We must put all our efforts into solutions that we know can make a difference, such as reducing vulnerability to disasters, improving water resource management, and ensuring that economic development does not occur at the expense of sustainability of the environment,» he said.
Some ways the climate crisis is affecting children
Around 503 million children now live in areas at high risk of flooding due to extreme weather events such as cyclones, hurricanes and storms, as well as rising sea levels. Investments in disaster risk reduction, such as early warning systems, can help prepare communities to protect children during extreme weather events.
The number of minors displaced by extreme weather events in the Caribbean has increased six-fold in the past five years. From 2014 to 2018, 761,000 children were internally displaced, up from 175,000 displaced between 2009 and 2013. Strategies that limit forced displacement and shorten rehabilitation time so families can return home are critical.
About 160 million children live in areas experiencing high levels of drought, and by 2040, 1 in 4 will live in areas of extreme water stress. There are technologies to effectively manage water, but greater investment in scaling techniques can help to locate, extract and manage water sustainably.
Climate-related disasters increase the risk of girls dropping out of school and being forced into marriage, child trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse. Educating girls increases their awareness of the climate crisis and develops their resilience and ability to cope with these impacts.
Nearly 90% of the disease burden attributable to climate change is assumed by children under five years of age. Changes in temperature, precipitation and humidity have a direct effect on the reproduction and survival of mosquitoes that transmit deadly diseases. However, improving forecasting capabilities, complemented by support for workers and health systems in the field, allows us to more accurately map disease prevalence and predict, and disrupt, mechanisms and transition pathways.
Approximately 300 million children breathe toxic air; 17 million are under 1 year old. These minors live in areas where PM2.5 levels exceed six times the international limits set by the World Health Organization, which has an immediate and long-term detrimental effect on their health and brain function and development. Cleaner, renewable energy sources, affordable access to public transport, more green spaces in urban areas, and better waste management that prevents open burning of harmful chemicals can help improve the health of millions.
Toxic air, largely caused by carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, has serious consequences for young children, contributing to the deaths of around 600,000 children under the age of five each year due to pneumonia and other problems Respiratory. Despite knowing its dangers, many places with high levels of pollution do not have soil-level monitoring systems to measure the problem regularly. Only 6% of children in Africa, for example, live within 50 km of a ground-level monitoring station.