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Half of world's children suffer from climate risks

China Daily | Updated: 2021-08-23 10:09

Children hold placards during a global climate change strike rally in Nicosia, Cyprus on Sept 27, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

UNITED NATIONS-About 1 billion children, nearly half the world's 2.2 billion children, live in 33 countries classified as "extremely high-risk" of the impacts of climate change, a report of UNICEF, the UN Children's Emergency Fund, says.

These children face a deadly combination of exposure to multiple climate and environmental shocks with high vulnerability due to inadequate essential services, such as water and sanitation, healthcare and education, said the report, published on Friday.

Children living in the Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau are the most at risk, threatening their health, education and protection, and exposing them to deadly diseases, it said.

The report, published in collaboration with Fridays for Future, also known as School Strike for Climate, is believed to be the first comprehensive analysis of climate risk from a child's perspective.

It ranks countries based on children's exposure to climate and environmental shocks such as cyclones and heat waves, as well as their vulnerability to those shocks, based on their access to essential services.

"For the first time we have a complete picture of where and how children are vulnerable to climate change, and that picture is almost unimaginably dire," said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF's executive director. "Climate and environmental shocks are undermining the complete spectrum of children's rights, from access to clean air, food and safe water; to education, housing, freedom from exploitation and even their right to survive. Virtually no child's life will be unaffected."

Exposure to disasters

The report finds that 240 million children are highly exposed to coastal flooding; 330 million to riverine flooding; 400 million to cyclones; 600 million to vector-borne diseases; 815 million to lead pollution; 820 million to heat waves; 920 million to water scarcity; and 1 billion to exceedingly high levels of air pollution.

While nearly every child around the world is at risk from at least one of these climate and environmental hazards, the report said, that the worst-affected countries face multiple and often overlapping shocks that threaten to erode development progress and deepen child deprivation.

An estimated 850 million children, one in three children worldwide, live in areas where at least four of these climate and environmental shocks overlap. As many as 330 million children, one in seven worldwide, live in areas affected by at least five major shocks.

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