More than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high flood occurrence

24 November 2015 – More  than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high flood occurrence and 160 million in high drought severity zones, leaving them highly exposed to the impacts of climate change, Unicef said in a report released ahead of the 21st United Nations climate change conference, known as COP21. 

Of the 530 million children in the flood-prone zones, some 300 million live in countries where more than half the population lives in poverty – on less than $3.10 a day. Of those living in high drought severity areas, 50 million are in countries where more than half the population lives in poverty.

“The sheer numbers underline the urgency of acting now,” said Unicef Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Today’s children are the least responsible for climate change, but they, and their children, are the ones who will live with its consequences. And, as is so often the case, disadvantaged communities face the gravest threat.”

The vast majority of the children living in areas at extremely high risk of floods are in Asia, and the majority of those in areas at risk of drought are in Africa.

World leaders gathering in Paris for COP21 – held from November 30 to December 11 – will seek to reach agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which most experts say is critical to limiting potentially catastrophic rises in temperature.

“We know what has to be done to prevent the devastation climate change can inflict. Failing to act would be unconscionable,” said Lake. “We owe it to our children – and to the planet – to make the right decisions at COP21.”

Unicef UK are seriously concerned by the lack of attention afforded to children’s rights in the current draft climate change agreement. Children, particularly the poorest, are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, a fundamental threat to their most basic rights, including access to food and water, health and wellbeing, education, and survival. It also increases their risk of being victims of exploitation, violence and abuse. Despite this, children are mentioned only once in the current draft.

Leah Kreitzman, Unicef UK Director of Public Affairs said: “The Paris Agreement must commit to ensuring human rights, including children’s rights, are an overarching principle in guiding climate action. We would like to see the UK join with developing nations in championing this principle. Only by including human rights in the Agreement can we make sure all children, and future generations, are protected in the long term.”

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Full report, Unless we act now: The impact of climate change on children, available here - http://www.unicef.org/publications/index_86337.html

For further information, please contact:

Unicef UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7375 6030 or media@unicef.org.uk

About Unicef UK

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children.  As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk