More than half a billion children live in areas at high risk of flooding, and 160 million live in areas highly affected by drought: this is the new data from the UNICEF report entitled 'Unless we act now: The Impact of climate change on children', published a few days before the UN’s twenty-first conference on climate change that begins this Sunday, November 29, in Paris. According to the agency, of the 530 million children who live in areas prone to floods, about 300 million live in countries where more than half the population lives on less than $ 3.10 a day. Of those who live in areas at risk of drought, 50 million live in countries where more than half the population is below the poverty line .
Today's children are the last who are responsible for climate change, but they are the ones who suffer most from its consequences ," stated Anthony Lake, the director of UNICEF presenting the report. " And so, disadvantaged communities are those who have contributed least to the aggravation of climate change are today those who are facing the greatest threats," he added.
Climate change brings with it extreme phenomena such as droughts, floods, heat waves, and other severe conditions . According to UNICEF, not only do these situations create emergencies that lead to death and destruction, but they also contribute to the spread of the major causes of infant mortality, such as malnutrition, malaria, and diarrhea . This creates a vicious cycle; a child deprived of drinking water and health services will suffer more from the consequences of floods, droughts, and hurricanes, and will be less able to recover physically. Therefore, they face a greater risk when faced with an emergency.
The report shows that the majority of children at risk from floods live in Asia, whilst children living in Africa are mostly at risk from drought and famine. In Somalia, over 3 million people are in need of assistance due to poor harvests and food shortages. In Indonesia, El Niño has exacerbated the effects of fires and peat forests, which are still in progress, and in August and September, the smoke of the fires caused serious respiratory infections in 272,000 people - most of whom were children.
In the states in the Pacific region, El Niño threatens to leave more than 4 million people without food or drinking water.
100 million new people falling into poverty because of climate change
Although it is children who will be most affected, according to the World Bank by 2030 there will be 100 million more people in extreme poverty: people who will be affected by higher food prices due to more droughts and floods. By 2030, the price of food in Africa could increase by 12%, raising by 60% the costs that the poorest families are faced with to feed themselves.
The number of droughts could increase by 20% by 2080, and the percentage of those affected will increase between 50-90% compared to today. People exposed to flooding could increase by 4-15% by 2030 and 12-29% by 2080.
This trend will increase the number of people displaced by natural disasters: in 2008 an average of 26.4 million people have fled their homes, every year. This is approximately one per second, according to a report by the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
They were 19.3 million in 2014, mainly in Asia, while the estimates of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said that in 2060 Africa climate refugees will be 50 million.
This is why according to the World Bank the fight against poverty must be addressed alongside that to stop climate change : a clear invitation before the event in which governments are called upon to make binding commitments to reduce CO2 emissions, and prevent the UN predictions on the increase of natural disasters being realized even sooner than expected.
Translated by Kimberley Evans
Photo Credits UNICEF/Jeoffrey Maltern