Children in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India are among those most at risk of the impacts of climate change, threatening their health, education, and protection, according to a new Unicef report launched today.
Bangladesh ranked second among South Asian countries and 15th globally in Unicef’s index “The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index.”
The index, first of its kind, ranked countries based on children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks, such as cyclones and heatwaves, as well as their vulnerability to those shocks based on their access to essential services.
Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and India are among four South Asian countries where children are at extremely high risk of the impacts of the climate crisis, with global rankings of 14, 15, 15, and 26.
Nepal is ranked 51 while Sri Lanka is at 61st place. Bhutan is ranked 111, with children at relatively lower risk.
South Asian countries are among the most vulnerable globally to the impacts of climate change.
Extreme climate-related events – heatwaves, storms, floods, fires, and droughts – affect more than half of the region’s population every year and continue to burden their economies.
Worse, before they can recover from one disaster, another one strikes, reversing any progress made.
Also, rising global temperatures and changing weather patterns have put the futures of millions of children living in climate-vulnerable areas in South Asia at constant risk.
Around 1 billion children live in one of the 33 countries classified as “extremely high-risk,” including the four South Asian countries.
“For the first time, we have clear evidence of the impact of climate change on millions of children in South Asia. Droughts, floods, air pollution, and river erosion across the region have left millions of children homeless and hungry, and without any healthcare and water,” said George Laryea-Adjei, Unicef regional director for South Asia.
South Asia is home to over 600 million children and has the highest number of young people globally.
The report found that these South Asian children are in constant danger from riverine floods and air pollution, but also that investment in child health, nutrition, and education can make a significant difference to protect children from climate change.
“Together, climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic have created an alarming crisis for South Asian children.
The time to act is now – if we invest in water, healthcare, and education, we can protect their futures from the impacts of a changing climate and degrading environment,” Laryea-Adjei said.
The report also reveals a disconnect between where greenhouse gas emissions are generated, and where children are enduring the most significant climate-driven impacts.
The 33 extremely high-risk countries, including four from South Asia, collectively emit just 9% of global CO2 emissions. Conversely, the 10 highest emitting countries collectively account for nearly 70% of global emissions. – UNB