This is what the new report The Climate Changed Child by Unicef finds
One in three children, or 739 million worldwide, live in areas already exposed to high or very high levels of water scarcity, with climate change threatening to make this situation worse. Furthermore, the double impact of decreasing water availability and inadequate drinking water and sanitation is exacerbating the challenges, putting children at even greater risk. This is what the new report The Climate Changed Child by Unicef.
The Climate Changed Child, launched ahead of the COP28 Climate Change Summit, highlights the threat to children from water vulnerability, one of the ways in which the impacts of climate change are being felt. Provides an analysis of the impacts of three levels of water security globally, water scarcity, water vulnerability and water stress.
The impact of the climate crisis
The report, a supplement to UNICEF’s Child Climate Risk Index (2021), also outlines the myriad other ways children are being impacted by the climate crisis, including disease, air pollution, and events. extreme weather such as floods and droughts. From the moment of conception through adulthood, the health and development of children’s brain, lungs, immune system, and other vital functions are influenced by the environment in which they grow up. For example, children are more exposed to air pollution than adults. In general, they breathe faster than adults, and their brains, lungs and other organs are still developing.
“The consequences of climate change are devastating for children – said Catherine Russell, director general of Unicef - Their bodies and minds are particularly 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, but so is their well-being, as climate change affects their mental and physical health. Children are demanding change, but their needs are all too often overshadowed.”
The most affected regions
According to the report, the majority of exposed children are found in the regions of Middle East and North Africa and South Asia. Far too many children, over 400 million, are facing the double disadvantage of high or very high water scarcity and low or very low levels of drinking water services, known as extreme water vulnerability, putting their lives at risk, their health and well-being. It is one of the leading causes of death among children under 5 years of age due to preventable diseases. The report shows that those most affected live in low- and middle-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, South and Central Asia, and East and Southeast Asia. In 2022, 436 million children lived in areas of extreme water vulnerability. Among the most affected countries: Niger, Jordan, Burkina Faso, Yemen, Chad and Namibia, where 8 out of 10 children are exposed.
According to the report, climate change is also leading to an increase in water stress, the relationship between water demand and available renewable supplies. By 2050, 35 million additional children are expected to be exposed to high or very high levels of water stress, with the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia currently facing the greatest changes.
In Italy the report estimates that in 2022 there were approximately 298 thousand children exposed to high or very high levels of water stress and even our country, within the so-called Mediterranean hotspot, risks a worsening of the situation in the absence of effective measures to combat climate change.