Weather-related disasters are leading our children to a gloomy future. Approximately, 20,000 children are displaced in a day due to weather-related disasters. According to a new UNICEF analysis, ‘Children Displaced in a Changing Climate,’ weather-related disasters caused 43.1 million internal displacements of children in 44 countries over a period of six-year.
This is the first global analysis of the number of children driven from their homes between 2016 and 2021 due to floods, storms, droughts and wildfires, and further, looks at projections for the next 30 years.
Using a disaster displacement risk model developed by Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, the report projects riverine floods have the potential to displace almost 96 million children over the next 30 years, based on current climate data, while cyclonic winds and storm surges have the potential to displace 10.3 million and 7.2 million children respectively, over the same period*. With more frequent and more severe weather events as consequence of changing climate, the actual numbers will almost certainly be higher.
Countries with highest numbers
China and the Philippines are among the countries that recorded the highest absolute numbers of child displacements. Extreme weather, large child populations and progress made on early warning and evacuation capacities are the reasons of such displacements, according to the analysis.
However, relative to the size of the child population, children living in small island states, such as Dominica and Vanuatu, were most affected by storms, while children in Somalia and South Sudan were most affected by floods.
Floods and storms accounted for 40.9 million or 95% of recorded child displacements between 2016 and 2021, due in part to better reporting and more pre-emptive evacuations. Meanwhile, droughts triggered more than 1.3 million internal displacements of children – with Somalia again among the most affected, while wildfires triggered 810,000 child displacements, with more than a third occurring in 2020 alone. Canada, Israel and the United States recorded the most.
Impacts of displacement
Although climate-driven movement saves the life of these children but it has its adverse impacts too. According to UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell, “It is terrifying for any child when a ferocious wildfire, storm or flood barrels into their community.” For those who are forced to flee, the fear and impact can be especially devastating, with worry of whether they will return home, resume school, or be forced to move again, Russell further added.
Further, the children in poor and conflicted areas are at more risk of displacement, as local capacities to cope with any additional displacements of children are strained.
Need of the hour
To tackle the issue, Director Catherine Russell says that we have the tools and knowledge to respond to this escalating challenge for children, but we are acting far too slowly. We need to strengthen efforts to prepare communities, protect children at risk of displacement, and support those already uprooted.
The UNICEF has also urged the leaders and other stakeholders participating at COP28, to be held later this year, to take actions to protect children and young people at risk of future displacement and prepare them and their communities.