1 Billion Children in Poor Countries Worldwide Face “Extremely High Risk” from Climate Change

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), working with the Data for Children Collaborative, set out to analyze the impact of global climate change on the children of the world. On August 19, it released its report: The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index.

Summarizing what the report revealed, the executive director of UNICEF describes the situation as “almost unimaginably dire. 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.” [Emphasis added]

The press release that announced the report laid out the staggering statistics:

  • 570 million children are highly exposed to coastal or riverine flooding;
  • 400 million children are highly exposed to cyclones;
  • 600 million children are highly exposed to vector borne diseases;
  • 815 million children are highly exposed to lead pollution;
  • 820 million children are highly exposed to heat waves;
  • 920 million children are highly exposed to water scarcity;
  • 1 billion children are highly exposed to exceedingly high levels of air pollution.

The words and numbers can be numbing, but think about just one—because of increasing drought, contamination, and other climate-related impacts, 920 million children do not have ready access to clean water for their most basic needs!

UNICEF reports that 920 million children are highly exposed to water scarcity. Here Zambian women haul water, a task that can take 8 to 10 hours each week just for subsistence water. Photo: UNICEF

As bad as this is, even worse is the fact that it is children in the poorest countries—countries that for the most part are responsible for very little of the carbon release that is driving climate change—who are suffering the most.

UNICEF reports that 815 million children are highly exposed to lead pollution. Children ride bikes in polluted Bangladesh. Photo: UNICEF

One billion children—nearly half the children in the world—live in the 33 countries found to be “extremely high risk.” These 33 countries together produced nine percent of the world’s greenhouse gases.

The top 13 countries in terms of risk to children are all in Africa! The top 38 are all poor countries in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean region! Of the 25 least at risk, 23 are in Europe. The U.S.—one of the world’s top polluters—comes in at 80 in terms of risk to kids.1

This new report reveals nothing less than the reality that the existing world order is murdering the very future of humanity.


1. See Summary Report, page 16.  [back]



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