A child wades through water on her way to school in Bangladesh. © UNICEF/Akash

Protecting children in
a changing climate

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Climate change is endangering children and threatening their futures

Climate change puts children’s most basic rights at risk, seriously affecting their access to health, food, water, clean air, education and protection. Around the world, the growing number of extreme weather events is putting more and more children’s lives in danger. Every year, environmental factors take the lives of 1.7 million children under five.

For an even greater number of children, these events mean a reduced chance of a happy, healthy future. When floods hit, schools and health clinics are destroyed. When droughts occur, children spend less time in school because they have to walk miles to collect water. Rising sea levels and toxic air pollution turn children’s communities into hazardous environments to grow up in.

These aren’t problems that can wait. They are problems right now, and UNICEF is working tirelessly to help solve them.

Boy displaced by Cyclone Idai, Mozambique. UNICEF/De Wet

Mozambique, 2019. Helcio holds Anderson as they take shelter in a living space for people displaced by Cyclone Idai. The cyclone caused widespread flooding, forcing thousands of people from their homes.

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Icon, graphic: tap, clean water, hygiene, sanitation

600 million children – one in four worldwide – will be living in areas with extremely limited water resources by 2040

Protecting and empowering children in the face of climate change

Solving these problems is central to UNICEF’s mission to realise the rights of every child – especially the most vulnerable. We respond rapidly to natural disasters, providing children with the care, supplies and protection that could save their lives. We are committed to providing a safe environment for every child to grow up in.

But children deserve more than protection. With the right support they can be empowered to become agents of change who can shape their own future. That’s why UNICEF is providing communities with access to green technologies and promoting the use of sustainable energy.

UNICEF UK’S Youth Advisory Board’s Message to World Leaders at COP26

UNICEF UK’S Youth Advisory Board, along with 25 Ambassadors and supporters want world leaders to hear them loud and clear. The climate crisis is a child rights crisis.

As COP26 kicks off on 31st October 2021, our Youth Advisory Board have written an open letter to world leaders as they enter critical negotiations on the climate crisis. The letter, published in The Times on 1st November 2021 asks leaders, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to listen to the voices of children, and to take their words with them into the Conference.

Co-signed by UK Ambassadors and High Profile Supporters, including Orlando Bloom, Olivia Colman and David Harewood they declare the climate crisis a child rights crisis and request leaders to add their name to the Intergovernmental Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action.

Join our campaigners and add your name to the petition asking the UK Government to sign the Intergovernmental Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action and put children at the heart of climate action.

The Youth Advisory Board's open letter to world leaders, published in The Times on 1st November 2021.

3 ways unicef

is building climate change resilience and promoting sustainability

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Flood-resistant schools in Zambia

Living on the Barotse floodplain in Zambia is uniquely challenging for children, particularly with new uncertainties caused by climate change. Children can be seen using canoes to paddle to schools that often close for months during the flood season.

With help from UNICEF, Malabo Primary School, originally built with mud walls and floor, has been completely rebuilt on an elevated bank. Now even in the height of flood season, it remains open.

School enrolment has jumped by 50%. Not only is the school itself now more resistant to the effects of climate change, the children and the surrounding community will also benefit from the empowerment of a better education.

Disaster risk reduction in Cuba

In Cuba, UNICEF is helping to incorporate disaster risk reduction into its school curriculum. So that children can lead the way in creating a society that is rooted in preparedness and resilience.

Cuba is at permanent risk of natural hazards such as hurricanes, earthquakes and droughts, and is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The curriculum includes both practical and theoretical knowledge of how to reduce the risk of disasters at all age levels.

A variety of learning methods are used from performing arts to physics problems based on extreme weather events. This means that children of all ages and abilities are able to take part and benefit.

Solar-powered water pumps in Malawi

Yesaya’s life has changed for the better after a solar-powered water pump was installed near his school by UNICEF Malawi. He spends less time collecting water, and can attend school more regularly.

Countries like Malawi have a heavy dependence on natural resources and rains. This means they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Access to clean water becomes crucial for survival in the dry season.

Solar-powered water pumps provide a reliable, environmentally friendly source of vital clean water to communities, and allow them to build resilience to the future effects of climate change.

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Help us build a more sustainable future for children

Help us build a more sustainable future for children

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Giving children a voice in the fight for their environment

Children everywhere deserve to have a say in their future and we’re fighting for their right to be heard. In the UK we’ve campaigned for children’s right to breathe clean air, pressuring the government to reduce toxic air levels. In Zambia, child-led advocacy programme Unite4Climate is empowering children to become climate ambassadors. And in places like Za’atari Refugee camp in Jordan ‘Start-up’ events are equipping children with the skills they need to design innovative solutions to the challenges they face.

UNICEF fights to make sure children’s voices are central to high-level discussions about climate and the environment. We use our unrivalled influence to work with governments in 190 countries striving to ensure that they stick to their climate and environment goals and help them to develop even more ambitious programmes that better protect children.

Support UNICEF and help us build a more sustainable future for children

By supporting UNICEF you can help protect children from the effects of climate change, fight for their voices to be heard and build a sustainable future.

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Find out more about climate change and UNICEF's work