Geneva, Nov 14 : One in three children, or 739 million worldwide, already live in areas exposed to high or very high water scarcity, with climate change threatening to make this worse, according to a new Unicef report.
According to findings of the report — titled ‘The Climate Changed Child’ — the greatest share of children are exposed in the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia regions, meaning they live in places with limited water resources and high levels of seasonal and interannual variability, ground water table decline or drought risk
The report also provides an analysis of the impacts of three tiers of water security globally — water scarcity, water vulnerability, and water stress.
Far too many children – 436 million – are facing the double burden of high or very high water scarcity and low or very low drinking water service levels – known as extreme water vulnerability, leaving their lives, health, and well-being at risk. It is one of the key drivers of deaths among children under 5 from preventable diseases, it said.
The report shows that those most affected live in low- and middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Southern Asia, and Eastern and South-Eastern Asia.
In 2022, 436 million children were living in areas facing extreme water vulnerability.
Some of the most impacted countries include Niger, Jordan, Burkina Faso, Yemen, Chad, and Namibia, where eight out of 10 children are exposed.
“The consequences of climate change are devastating for children,” said Unicef Executive Director Catherine Russell.
“Their bodies and minds are uniquely vulnerable to polluted air, poor nutrition and extreme heat. Not only is their world changing – with water sources drying up and terrifying weather events becoming stronger and more frequent – so too is their well-being as climate change affects their mental and physical health.
“Children are demanding change, but their needs are far too often relegated to the sidelines,” she added.
The report outlines other ways in which children bear the brunt of the impacts of the climate crisis, including disease, air pollution, and extreme weather events such as floods and droughts.
From conception until adulthood, the health and development of children’s brains, lungs, immune systems and other critical functions are affected by the environment they grow up in.
According to the report, children are more likely to suffer from air pollution than adults.
Generally, they breathe faster than adults and their brains, lungs and other organs are still developing.
The report was released ahead of the COP28 climate change summit, beginning in the United Arab Emirates on November 30.