UNICEF: Climate Crisis Jeopardizing Children
A UNICEF report stated that half of the world's children are at 'extremely high risk' as a result of climate change and its repercussions, and the children in Sub-Saharan Africa are most likely to be affected by natural disasters.
Children all over the world are at extremely high risk because of climate change and all its repercussions of pollution and natural disasters. However, Sub-Saharan Africa is at especially high risk, for its population is the most exposed to the said perils, with climate change threatening their health, education, and protection, and exposing them to deadly diseases - according to a UNICEF report launched Friday, titled: The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index.
The report said that young people living in the Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau rank the highest in the world based on children's exposure to climate and environmental shocks, such as cyclones and heatwaves, as well as their vulnerability to those shocks, based on their (inability to have) access to essential services.
The report also revealed that:
- 570 million children are highly exposed to flooding.
- 400 million children are highly exposed to cyclones,
- 600 million children are highly exposed to vector-borne 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, and
- one billion children are highly exposed to exceedingly high levels of air pollution.
"Climate change is deeply inequitable. While no child is responsible for rising global temperatures, they will pay the highest costs. The children from countries least responsible will suffer most of all," said UNICEF - a nod at how certain nations are benefiting from the sufferance of others.
"Children are not simply small humans – a child does not experience the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation in the same way as an adult," explained the document. It also highlighted the importance of shielding children from a problem they are not responsible for, especially that they cannot control their level of exposure in the same way adults can. They are also less able to survive the impacts of such events.
Climate change has been rapidly deteriorating due to human activities, as previous UN reports have stressed that climate change is worsening at an alarming pace. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was considered as "nothing less" than a ‘code red for humanity’ by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Additionally, global temperature has been increasing at a frightening scale, in light of a major increase in natural disasters, such as floods and forest fires all around the globe.
UNICEF also cited extreme temperatures, water scarcity, flooding, cyclones, vector-borne diseases, air pollution, and water pollution as hazards and shocks that children are exposed to, urging governments, businesses, and relevant actors to take appropriate measures.
The UN agency proposed several reforms and actions that need to be taken to ease the effects of climate change on children. In this context, UNICEF called on the relevant bodies to increase investment in climate adaptation and resilience in key services for children, which would protect them and their communities, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, saying countries must cut their emissions by at least 45% by 2030.
Additionally, the UN agency demanded providing children with climate education and greens skills, which they saw as a duty, considering the children's lack of accountability in this crisis, as well as including young people in all national, regional, and international climate negotiations and decisions.
Most importantly, amid the surge in COVID-19 cases worldwide, UNICEF urged all relevant bodies to ensure a green, low-carbon recovery from the pandemic, making sure that the future generations' capacity to deal with the climate crisis is not compromised.