Children in Central, West Africa threatened by climate crisis, says UNICEF
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CAPE TOWN - Young people living in the Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau are most at risk from the impact of climate change, threatening their health and education and exposing them to deadly diseases, according to a report launched by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Friday.
Launched in collaboration with Fridays for Future on the third anniversary of the youth-led global climate strike movement, the report says approximately one billion children, nearly half the world's 2.2 billion children, live in one of the 33 countries classified as “extremely high-risk”.
They face exposure to multiple climate and environmental shocks with a high vulnerability due to inadequate essential services such as water and sanitation, healthcare and education.
“For the first time, we have a complete picture of where and how children are vulnerable to climate change, and that picture is almost unimaginably dire,” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said.
“Virtually no child’s life will be unaffected. For three years, children have raised their voices around the world to demand action. UNICEF supports their calls for change with an unarguable message – the climate crisis is a child’s rights crisis.”
The report also reveals a disconnect between where greenhouse gas emissions are generated and where children are enduring the most significant climate-driven impacts.
The 33 ‘extremely high-risk’ countries collectively emit just nine percent of global carbon emissions while the 10 highest emitting countries collectively account for nearly 70 percent of global emissions.
“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 Fore.
“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.”
Without the urgent action required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, children will continue to suffer the most, according to the report.
Compared to adults, children require more food and water per unit of their body weight, are less able to survive extreme weather events and are more susceptible to toxic chemicals, temperature changes and diseases.