Governments are being urged to act now to protect younger generations from the immediate and long-term impacts of extreme weather events.
The devastating floods in southern India, wildfires in the western United States and record-breaking heatwaves across much of the northern hemisphere are putting children in immediate danger while also jeopardizing their future, UNICEF said in a press release.
“In any crisis, children are among the most vulnerable, and the extreme weather events we are seeing around the world are no exception,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Director of Programmes.
“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.”
According to UNICEF, although individual weather events cannot specifically be attributed to climate change, their increasing frequency and severity correspond with predictions of how human activities are affecting the global climate.
And they are having numerous impacts on children. For example, heatwaves put children at risk, with infants and younger children more likely to die or suffer from heatstroke. Floods threaten their survival and development by causing injuries or death by drowning, or compromising water supply and damaging sanitation facilities. Poor families are particularly affected by drought, which can lead to crop failure, livestock deaths and loss of income. Finally, changing climates contribute to the increased spread of what UNICEF calls “childhood killers”: malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea.
“As the world experiences a steady rise in climate-driven extreme weather events, it is children’s lives and futures that will be the most disrupted,” Mr. Chaiban continued. “Therefore, it’s vital that Governments and the international community take concrete steps to safeguard children’s future and their rights. The worst impacts of climate change are not inevitable, but the time for action is now.”
Image credit: © UNICEF / Mukwazhi