The impact of climate change
on children's lives and futures
Climate change is a children’s issue
Children, particularly the poorest, are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. From natural disasters to the creeping impacts of rising sea levels and changing rain fall patterns, climate change threatens children’s most basic rights, including their health, access to food and water, education – even their survival.
Climate change also makes the root causes of instability and conflict even worse, placing children at a higher risk of violence, exploitation and abuse.
Climate change leaves children without a future
Drought and flooding provide breeding grounds for deadly diseases such as malaria and diarrhoea – leading causes of death for children. Drought can also lead to crop failures and rising food prices, putting children in danger of malnutrition – responsible for almost half of worldwide deaths of children under the age of five. For those that survive, the impacts can be lifelong.
When extreme weather strikes, children may be displaced in chaotic and precarious circumstances, and at risk of physical and psychological trauma. Children that become separated from their parents are more likely to experience violence, exploitation and abuse.
Schools may be destroyed or taken over as shelters in the event of extreme weather, or children may be displaced to locations that are too far away to attend. Girls in particular are more likely to be taken out of school to make up for lost income when crops shrivel and families’ livelihoods fail. Similarly, teenagers may be sent away to work forcing them to drop out of school and travel in precarious circumstances, often without the protection of parents. In Bangladesh, climate change has been linked to an increase in the number of girls forced into child marriage or prostitution in cities, often by desperate parents that have no other means to provide for their families.
What is Unicef doing to protect children from the effects of climate change?
From building cyclone-proof schools to protecting vital water supplies from flooding, and empowering children to take action, we are helping communities to become more resilient to the impacts of climate change throughout the world, and preventing hard won development gains from being wiped out.
How can Governments make a difference for children in the future?
As part of the historic 2015 Paris Agreement, we called for children and their rights to be placed at the very core of this new climate deals. Thanks to our campaigning, Governments agreed to “respect, promote and consider” children’s rights, as well as inter-generational equity, when taking action to address climate change. This was a huge moment in recognising how climate change and children’s rights are intrinsically linked.
Now words must be translated into action. Our new report, No Place To Call Home, shines a light for the first time on the impact on children’s rights when children are forced to flee from home because of climate change.
It is vital that states place children’s rights at the heart of international and national climate, humanitarian, disaster risk reduction, development, and migration strategies in order to prevent and minimise children’s displacement, enhance children’s resilience, and facilitate safe and legal migration routes.