Climate Change Impacts, Trends and Vulnerabilities in Children

By Constance Ndeleko

Undeniably the climate crisis is redesigning our world. Climate change includes changes in temperature, precipitation patterns, the frequency and severity of certain weather events, and other features of the climate system.

Climate change is already a direct challenge to children’s rights and well-being. One billion children – nearly half of children globally – are at ‘extremely high risk’ of its impacts

The world needs to ensure that every child survives and thrives, their rights are protected and they get to enjoy them despite the difficult situations they might be facing including enormous implications of climate change

An estimated 850 million children – 1 in 3 worldwide – live in areas where at least four of these climate and environmental shocks overlap. As many as 330 million children – 1 in 7 worldwide – live in areas affected by at least five major shocks.

Africa needs to protect its own children, and it starts with me and you. We should all ensure that every child lives in a clean and safe environment with equitable opportunities in life. This means and environment that is fit for children and the future generations to come.

In Sub-Saharan, young people make up about 63% of the population.

Between 2017 and 2050, the child and youth population in the region is expected to more than double to 945 million, with declines expected in other regions of the world.

Children as the most vulnerable group suffer the most. They require nutritious food and clean water to survive and thrive even in the extreme weather conditions. Children are more susceptible to toxic chemicals, temperature changes and diseases. To fully ensure protection of children, an urgent action is required to reduce Green House Emissions.

Factors of climate change

Decreased annual rainfall has contributed to increased aridity of up to 30%

Rising of the sea levels thus increased flooding leading to increased socio-economic and physical vulnerability of coastal cities

How are children’s rights affected by climate change?         

  • When the temperatures go high, water becomes scarce and children are the ones who face the most fatal impact-Malnutrition, hunger, water-borne diseases due to polluted water.
  • When floods hit a region, most likely classrooms are used for shelter or they could also have been destroyed and schools are usually closed thus impacting on their developmental gains in regards to their right to education.
  • Climate change drives inequality and creates and prolongs poverty traps, with children and adolescents particularly exposed.
  • Up to two-thirds of preventable illness and death from predominantly in those aged under five years.
  • Children face life threatening circumstance i.e. Lack of food, child abuse-child labor, child trafficking, child violence, risk of attacks from harmful animals or even human beings
  • Health Hazard conditions-Dirty floodwater contaminates clean water sources and is leading to an upsurge in diarrheal diseases. The stagnant water becomes breathing grounds for mosquitos, which has led to a spike in malaria, hitting children the hardest.

A report by UNICEF finds approximately 1 billion children – nearly half the world’s 2.2 billion children – live in one of the 33 countries classified as “extremely high-risk”. They further mention that the figures are likely to get worse as the impacts of climate change accelerate.

The Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI) reveals:

  • 240 million children are highly exposed to coastal flooding;
  • 330 million children are highly exposed to 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 heatwaves;
  • 920 million children are highly exposed to water scarcity;
  • 1 billion children are highly exposed to exceedingly high levels of air pollution

Climate change is already having a significant effect on children’s well-being. The impact on children is likely to increase significantly over time; the extent of the impact depends on how quickly and successfully global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced as well as the ability to adapt to climate change

Children and communities will need support, skills and infrastructure to ensure they can survive and thrive in the face of this uncertainty

Better understanding of the differing risks posed by climate change within Afrca is vital in order to ensure development within these environmental changes.

Tools that enable climate change data need to be easily accessible and regularly updated will be an essential part of every country’s ability to reduce risk and future impacts.

Funding for disaster risk reduction and climate resilience programs is vital to protect children’s rights to survive and thrive – rights such as clean water, food and the chance to go to school.

Africa bears the brunt of climate change while contributing little to it. Adaptation to climate change should be at the center of the economic policymaking on the continent.

Climate change is threatening child survival and development now, and it will continue to do in the future as climatic challenges intensify and cause increasing risk and uncertainty. At the same time, there is tremendous opportunity to ensure that the next generation is equipped with the skills and knowledge to not only survive, but also thrive within the environmental challenges.


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