Children are more Vulnerable than Adults to Climate-Related Events

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has taken up a series of initiatives designed to pressure governments to mitigate the impact of climate-related events on younger generations.  

These initiatives encourage governments to recognize that extreme storms, heat waves, wildfires and water management problems will have a two-fold impact on those who are currently children: The short-term effect of these events will cause one category of harm, and the long-term effects will cause another. Children subject to uncontrolled weather events and water distribution issues can face malnutrition, disease, trauma, and involuntary migration, while the same children will face long term impacts that may undermine their ability to make a living and raise children of their own.

Children are among the most vulnerable members of any population, and in the face of hurricanes and floods, they are the most likely to experience injury. According to Director of Programmes Ted Chaiban, “As more extreme weather events increase the number of emergencies and humanitarian crises, it is children who will pay the highest price.”

Malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stroke all have a far greater impact on children then adults, and all of these are increased by extreme heat and weather events and unstable or unsanitary water conditions.  

With this in mind, UNICEF has published a report which calls for a strengthening of global health systems in response to climate change.

The fund has also called for increased investment in climate resilient agricultural systems and water sanitation policies, education for young people on issues related to climate change, and a stronger inclusion of children’s concerns in national strategies and climate change action plans.  

As poorer families around the world face potential crop damage and loss of income, the prospect of stable futures for their children become uncertain. Short term concerns like childhood illnesses will eventually give way to concerns about geopolitical stability and the obstacles faced by those who hope to move across national borders or establish livelihoods in a shifting economic landscape.

With its agenda for action on climate change, UNICEF envisions a world in which adaptable, resilient systems for agriculture, water, and energy development provide an environment in which the next generation can find access to stability and prosperity. Read more about the report here.