Children in 48 African countries at high risk of climate change impacts, says UNICEF report

International climate finance does not prioritise children, says UNICEF

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Monday 04 September 2023
Photo: iStock

Children in 98 per cent of African countries are at high risk of being impacted by climate change, according to a new report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) September 1, 2023.

Children in 48 out of 49 African countries assessed were categorised as at ‘high’ or ‘extremely high’ risk of climate change, the report Time to Act: African children in the climate change spotlight showed.

The analysis assessed countries based on children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks such as cyclones and heatwaves.

Using the global Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI), this report emphasised the unique exposure and vulnerability to climate change faced by children living in Africa. 

Children in the Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, Guinea, Somalia and Guinea-Bissau are most at risk, a 2021 UNICEF report showed.  

Children in Nigeria were put in the ‘extremely high risk’ category in last year’s assessment, ranking second out of 163 countries. 

Children disproportionately affected

Children are more vulnerable than adults to the effects of climate change, according to UNICEF. They are physically less equipped to handle weather extremes such as floods, droughts, storms and heatwaves as well as more vulnerable pollution-induced toxins.

A large number of children contract diseases like malaria, dengue and other diseases that climate change can worsen, data showed.

Children in the northern parts of Africa tend to be more exposed to risks related to water scarcity and air pollution, while those living in the western and eastern parts of the continent, particularly in the tropical areas, are at a higher risk of vector-borne diseases, heatwaves and riverine flooding.

Climate finance gap 

International climate finance does not prioritise children, according to UNICEF. The report found that only 2.4 per cent of global climate funding targets children, with an average of just $71 million per year.

UNICEF called on government and intergovernmental institutions, businesses and other stakeholders to prioritise five key sets of actions:

  • Strengthen climate resilience of systems providing essential services to protect children and their communities
  • Allocate adequate domestic and international funding for child-responsive climate programs
  • Equip children and young people with the knowledge and skills required to reduce the worst impacts of climate change
  • Involve children in decision-making processes
  • Reduce carbon emissions and pollution

Failure to act now, the report warned, will not only exacerbate immediate risks but also threaten long-term resilience and contribute to social inequality and political instability.

The report was released ahead of the Africa Climate Summit to be held in Nairobi on September 4-6, 2023.

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