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A look at how climate change is affecting children

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A look at how climate change is affecting children

For the first time, UNICEF, in collaboration with researchers and climate experts, has created the Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) to assess the impact of climate change on children. Why now and what does this mean for the future of children?

As climate-related disasters keep occurring in one place after another with alarming frequency, we can no longer deny that we are living at the most critical point in human history. This fact is attested to in the recently published report from the IPCC which warned that the world is heading to a warming level of 1.5°C or worse in the next decades if urgent and intensive actions are not taken.

Even more distressingly, children are not spared from the effects of climate change. It’s now becoming clear that the climate crisis is leading to another crisis altogether – a child’s rights crisis.

While it is true that all countries are facing the challenges of climate change and a degrading natural environment, some including children within those countries, face greater risks of climate change impacts than others. Even so, some countries have put up measures that help them to become more resilient and prepared to address the effects of climate change.

Scorching temperatures recorded in many parts of North America, Europe, and Africa are creating disturbing health conditions. This becomes downright scary as young children, especially infants, are more vulnerable to heatwaves than adults.

Some climate-induced health issues children are especially prone to include Malaria, Dengue fever, Cholera, Lyme disease, Diarrhea, and Malnutrition. Other extreme weather events, such as severe storms, floods, or wildfires, occur, not only endanger young lives and safety, they could also have traumatic effects on children who experience first-hand the destruction of their homes, communities, and schools.

This was the case with Ceecay, an 11-year-old from Mozambique who recounted his experience when Cyclone Kenneth ravaged his town. He said, “ I remember seeing many houses falling because of the rain and strong winds. I felt very afraid because I thought I was going to die.

“That day was very different. I don’t know why all that rain fell so hard. I didn’t like that because there was a gale and it took our house and we didn’t have food to eat,” he added.

Like Ceecay and countless other young children who have lived through climate-related disasters, the emotional scars may take a longer time to heal than physical bruises.

Earlier this year, Save the Children, a UK-based humanitarian organization for children warned that an estimated 710 million children living in 45 countries, mostly in Africa, are at the most exposed to the risk of experiencing the impact of climate change.

As climate change continues to make the world unsafe for children, experts and researchers working in collaboration with UNICEF have created the Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) to assess the impact of climate change on children for the first time.

Understanding the Child Climate Risk Index

The Vulnerability Index will use past and current data to assess climate hazards including temperature, location, flooding, drought, and the duration of periods of extreme weather combining these factors with information on child wellbeing and macro resilience.

In other words, the new Index is designed to capture the degree to which children are uniquely vulnerable to climate-related hazards as well as predict where children are going to be most impacted by climate change.

Led by the Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF and supported by top researchers from and the ONS-FCDO Data Science Hub, the project will be showcased at the upcoming 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Vulnerability Index will equip UNICEF’s global teams with the valuable information needed to target their climate change response and resilience investments to best serve the most vulnerable children of this present time and the future. To this end, the project has been divided into two phases- child climate risk assessment for both 2020 and 2050.

The first phase is to map out the Child Climate Risk Index which will provide a snapshot of the current risks of climate change to children today. While the second phase involves calculating data variables, such as temperature, flood, disease prevalence, and drought in combination with a child-relevant vulnerability index that considers child health, food security, and education to project ‘child climate risk’ scenarios forward to 2050.

These predictions will serve as a guide, helping organizations across the globe better understand the scale and scope of children’s vulnerabilities to climate change and how to address them.

In line with this, Alex Hutchison, Director, Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF, said, “We are delighted to showcase the services of the Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF on such a valuable and important piece of work.  Knowing that this tool will help UNICEF to highlight the plight of children across the globe, and at such a key juncture as COP26, drives the enthusiasm and rigor of this collaborative team.”

It’s not enough to know that climate crises affect children the worst. Addressing the increasing impacts of climate change on children requires more action from governments, other responsible agencies, and organizations.

For example, governments could increase their climate change budgets to accommodate the most vulnerable, and scale up adaptive and shock-responsive social protection systems which may include grants for pregnant mothers and displaced children among other measures.

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