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African children bearing the brunt of climate change impacts

Youth gather in Karura forest, Nairobi, in solidarity with the global climate youth marches in March 2019. PHOTO/UNEP


Children in Africa are among the most at risk from climate change impacts but are being woefully deprived of the financing necessary to help them adapt, survive and respond to the crisis, a new report by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says.

It was released as leaders prepare to meet for the African Climate Summit, taking place next week in Nairobi, Kenya.

Children in 48 out of 49 African countries assessed were found to be at high or extremely high risk of the impacts of climate change, based on their exposure and vulnerability to cyclones, heatwaves and other climate and environmental shocks, and access to essential services.

Those living in the Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, Guinea, Somalia and Guinea-Bissau are most at risk.

Step up funding

Despite this, the report found only 2.4 per cent of global climate funding targets children, with an average value of just $71 million per year.

“It is clear that the youngest members of African society are bearing the brunt of the harsh effects of climate change,” said Lieke van de Wiel, UNICEF Deputy Director for the Eastern and Southern Africa region.

“We need to see a stronger focusing of funding towards this group, so they are equipped to face a lifetime of climate-induced disruptions.”

Challenges and solutions

Children are more vulnerable than adults to the effects of climate change, UNICEF explained.

They are physically less able to withstand and survive hazards such as floods, droughts, storms and heatwaves and are physiologically more vulnerable to toxic substances such as lead and other forms of pollution.

Furthermore, challenges in ensuring access to quality services in areas such as health and nutrition; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and education, heighten their vulnerability.

At the same time, children and young people are instrumental to long-term change and sustainability, the report said, so they must be part of climate solutions, including policy and financing.

Supporting community resilience

Meanwhile, UNICEF and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) are working together on an increasing number of projects that show how communities across Africa can become more climate resilient.

A programme run by UNICEF and partners in the Sahel region focused on action across five sectors including health, nutrition, water, education and protection services.

Children in Africa are among the most at risk of the impacts of climate change. PHOTO/ UNICEF/Raphael Pouget.

Communities were empowered to mitigate the effects of climate-related weather events and manage residual risks through participatory planning and comprehensive service delivery.  

Furthermore, at least three million vulnerable people, mostly children, now have access to essential services, especially during climate-induced disasters.

In East Africa, a UNEP programme in Tanzania is working to reduce the damaging impact of sea-level rise on infrastructure through investing in seawalls, relocating boreholes, restoring mangrove forests and building rainwater harvesting systems.

As a result, coastal communities are now better able to withstand rising sea-levels. The programme has also led to health improvements for the population through access to safe, clean water.

African Climate Summit

At the African Climate Summit, taking place from 4 to 6 September, leaders from across the continent will highlight the need to push for increased investment in climate action.

Top UN officials including Secretary-General António Guterres and the UNEP Executive Director, Inger Andersen, will attend alongside over 20 Heads of State and Government and other world leaders, who are expected.

It is taking place during Africa Climate Week, an annual event that brings together representatives from governments, businesses, international organizations and civil society.

Momentum on migration

The Summit represents an unprecedented opportunity to address the increasing impacts of climate change on “human mobility” in Africa, the International Organization for Migration (IOMsaid on Friday.

Last year, more than 7.5 million internal disaster displacements were registered on the continent. IOM cited a 2021 report which warned that without efficient and sustained climate action, up to 105 million people in Africa could become internal migrants by the end of this year.

“We have officially entered the era of climate migration,” said IOM Director General-Elect Amy Pope, stressing the need for urgent solutions.

At the Africa Climate Summit, IOM will officiate over the signing of the ‘Continental, Kampala Ministerial Declaration on Migration Environment and Climate Change’, known as KDMECC-AFRICA.


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