United Nations, Aug 19 (EFE).- One billion children are at an “extremely high risk” of the impacts of the climate crisis, according to a new report from Unicef, whose chief described the situation as “unimaginably dire.”
The Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, Guinea and Guinea Bissau top the list of countries where minors are most at risk, according to the United Nations agency’s first child-focused climate risk index released Thursday.
According to Unicef, the 1 billion children, about half of the 2.2 billion on the planet, live in the 33 countries considered “extremely high risk.”
These children face a deadly combination of exposure to multiple climate and environmental shocks with a high vulnerability due to inadequate essential services, such as water and sanitation, healthcare and education, the agency said in a statement.
“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,” said Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore.
“Climate and environmental shocks are undermining the complete spectrum of children’s rights, from access to clean air, food and safe water; to education, housing, freedom from exploitation, and even their right to survive. Virtually no child’s life will be unaffected.”
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, among other factors.
‘The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index’ lists heatwaves, coastal and riverine flooding, cyclones, vector-borne diseases, water scarcity, and lead and air pollution as the main environmental and climate hazards, shocks and stressors children are exposed to.
Unicef points out that, although almost every child on Earth is impacted by at least one of these factors, some 850 million minors (a third of the total) live in areas where at least four of these events converge at the same time.
The report also says that the countries that generate the least greenhouse gases are those that suffer the most from climate change – in fact, the 33 nations considered “extremely high risk” emit less than 9 percent of the world’s CO2 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 she added that “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.”
Unicef called for increased investments in climate adaptation and resilience in key services for children, in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and in providing children with climate education and “green skills” for their adaptation to and preparation for the effects of climate change.
It also said children and young people must be included in all climate-related decision making, and Covid-19 pandemic recovery should be green, low-carbon and inclusive.
The presentation of the index included the participation of the young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, as well as the Bangladeshi Farzana Faruk Jhumu and the Zimbabwean Nkosilathi Nyathi.
Its release coincided with the third anniversary of the Fridays for Future movement, started on Aug. 20, 2018, when Thunberg first protested before the Swedish Parliament to call for urgent action to stop climate change. EFE