More than any other region, children in the East Asia and Pacific region are highly exposed to climate related disasters, according to the latest UNICEF regional report.
The report ‘Over the Tipping Point’ points out that children born in the region experience a six-fold increase in climate related disasters compared to their grandparents. “Over the last 50 years, the region witnessed 11 times increase in floods; four times increase in storms; 2.4 times increase in droughts and five times increase in landslides,” it said.
THE AFFECTED CHILDREN
The UNICEF also said that approximately one billion children – nearly half of the world’s children – live in countries that are at an “extremely high-risk” from the impacts of climate change. All countries in East Asia and the Pacific are at either a “High” or “Extremely High” risk, according to the Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI). East Asia and the Pacific remains the most disaster-prone region in the world
MULTIPLE TYPES OF OVERLAPPING SHOCKS AND STRESSES
The UNICEF analysis based on the Children’s Climate Risk Index reveals that 65 per cent of children in the region face four or more shocks, compared to the global average of 37 per cent. These include high exposure to heat waves, coastal flooding, water scarcity, tropical cyclones, various forms of air, soil and water pollution, riverine flooding, as well as climate-related diseases.
These climate shocks are increasing in frequency and interacting with non-climate shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis, among others, creating multiplier effects and cascading impacts across the region, leading to a ‘polycrisis’ – a situation with multiple near-simultaneous shocks with strong interdependencies.
Climate risks are further exacerbated in areas that are more prone to other non-climate natural hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, which are prevalent in several countries along the Pacific Ring of Fire. These threats are even more pronounced in contexts characterized by political instability, ethnic strife and unresolved conflicts, thereby putting the already vulnerable girls and boys to extreme forms of risks including sexual and gender-based violence
The UNICEF said climate change affected the health, nutrition, education and well-being of children in numerous ways. Children, despite their limited contribution to climate change, are shouldering the burden due to their reduced abilities to act or protect themselves. They are hit hardest because of the early stage of their physiological and cognitive development. Heat waves affect children more than adult and young children are at the greatest risk of heat-related mortality and morbidities,
“The situation for children in the East Asia and Pacific region is alarming. The climate crisis is risking their lives, causing them to miss out on their childhood and their right to survive and thrive. We need urgent and collective action by governments, businesses and donors to address some of the key bottlenecks in disaster risk management and adopt climate-smart services so that children can grow up in a safe and healthy environment,” said Debora Comini, Regional Director, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific.
- Children have continued access to the key services they need: This requires investing in climate-smart and disaster-resilient education, health, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services for children, so that children can access these services despite the shocks they face
- Child protection and social protection systems are in place and are climate-responsive
- There is understanding of what to expect and how to adjust as necessary, establishing and utilizing strong early warning, risk management and disaster preparedness systems
- Across all three areas above, children’s rights should be at the heart of the response, and their voices and perspectives heard and acted upon by decision makers