In a comprehensive report titled ‘The Climate Changed Child,’ released on Monday ahead of the imminent COP28 climate change summit, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) disclosed that close to one billion children face elevated water stress. The document highlights the grim reality that over the next 30 years, approximately 4.2 billion children are anticipated to be born into an era devoid of a conventional climate.
The report delineates that a staggering 739 million children contend with high or extremely high water scarcity, while 436 million reside in areas characterized by elevated water vulnerability. Furthermore, 470 million children confront substantial drought risks. The global landscape witnesses an escalating frequency and severity of droughts, heatwaves, and floods, with certain regions already grappling with the triad, placing immense strain on infrastructure and services.
Emphasizing the imperative role of prioritizing children in the global response to the climate crisis, the report asserts that this approach not only safeguards the health and well-being of children but also fosters resilient communities and robust economies. As the COP28 summit approaches, the report calls for decisive actions by world leaders and the international community to ensure a sustainable and livable planet for future generations.
Looking beyond COP28, UNICEF advocates for proactive measures to shield the lives, health, and well-being of children. This includes adapting essential social services, empowering children as environmental champions, and adhering to international sustainability and climate change agreements, with a particular emphasis on swiftly reducing emissions.
The supplementary report, building on UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk (2021), underscores the heightened vulnerability of children in low-income countries to climate change-related harm. Children, being disproportionately affected by environmental degradation, disasters, and the climate crisis, face increased risks of pollution, deadly diseases, and extreme weather events.
The report estimates that a concerning one in three children globally, totaling 739 million, already resides in areas grappling with high or very high water scarcity. Climate change further exacerbates this predicament, posing a severe threat to their mental and physical well-being.
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell articulated the profound impact of climate change on children, stating, “The consequences of climate change are devastating for children. Their bodies and minds are uniquely vulnerable to polluted air, poor nutrition, and extreme heat. Children are demanding change, but their needs are far too often relegated to the sidelines.”