O A document from the United Nations Children’s Fund also demonstrates that the climate crisis affects children’s physical and mental health and calls for urgent action to protect them.
Furthermore, the report highlights that the combination of challenges caused by reduced water availability and inadequate drinking water and sanitation services increases risks for children.
The report “The Climate Changed Child”, published ahead of the 28th climate change conference of the parties (COP28), which begins on the 30th in Dubai, highlights the threat to children as a result of water vulnerability, one of the ways in which impacts of climate change manifest themselves.
The document presents an analysis of the impacts of three levels of water security at a global level: water scarcity, water vulnerability and water stress.
Complementary to UNICEF’s “Children’s Climate Risk” report released in 2021, the new document also describes many other ways in which children suffer the consequences of the impacts of the climate crisis — including disease, air pollution and extreme weather events such as floods and dry.
“From the moment of conception until adulthood, the health and development of children’s brains, lungs, immune systems and other critical functions are affected by the environment in which they grow up,” says a UNICEF note on the report, which gives as an example that “children are more susceptible to suffering from air pollution than adults since they generally breathe faster than adults and their brains, lungs and other organs are still developing”.
According to the report, the majority of children exposed to water scarcity live in the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia regions, meaning they live in places with limited water resources and high levels of seasonal and interannual variability. , declining water tables or risk of drought.
“Many children — 436 million — face the dual challenges of high or very high water scarcity and low or very low levels of drinking water service — known as extreme water vulnerability — that put their lives at risk , health and well-being at risk”, which is “one of the main factors in mortality among children under five due to preventable diseases”.
Some of the most affected countries are Niger, Jordan, Burkina Faso, Yemen, Chad and Namibia, where eight in 10 children are exposed.
The report highlights that in these circumstances, investment in safe drinking water and sanitation services is an essential line of defense to protect children from the impacts of climate change, which is also leading to increased water stress — the relationship between water demand and available renewable reserves.
By 2050, an additional 35 million children are expected to be exposed to high or very high levels of water stress.
In the summary of the document sent to the Lusa agency, the executive director of UNICEF Portugal, Beatriz Imperatori, highlights that “children are the most vulnerable to the climate crisis, but they have little voice or vote in decisions that affect their future”.
“We need to obtain more and better data on the impact of climate change on the different dimensions of children’s lives, whether in education, health, food, urban spaces, protection or participation. This data will be crucial to develop effective strategies and ensure specific measures that defend the well-being and future of children in Portugal and around the world”, he states.
The same official states that, despite their unique vulnerability, “children have been ignored or largely disregarded in discussions about climate change”, giving as an example that “only 2.4 percent of climate financing comes from the main multilateral funds climate support projects that incorporate child-sensitive activities.”
For COP28, UNICEF calls on world leaders and the international community to take critical action on this issue and to ensure a livable planet.
Among the proposals are including children in COP28 discussions and convening a dialogue of experts on children and climate change.
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