UNICEF: Extreme weather events displace millions of children

A new UN report says that more than 43 million children were uprooted between 2016 and 2021 due to weather disasters fuelled by climate change

The frequency of these disasters have increased due to global warming. (photo: DW)
The frequency of these disasters have increased due to global warming. (photo: DW)


Extreme weather events — among them floods, droughts, storms and wildfires — associated with the climate crisis led to over 43 million displacements involving children between 2016 and 2021, according to a United Nations report.

At the current rate of climate change, more than 100 million children and young people could be displaced by weather disasters alone over the next 30 years, the report released by UNICEF on Friday said.

"The reality is that far more children are going to be impacted in (the) future, as the impacts of climate change continue to intensify," Laura Healy, a migration specialist at UNICEF and one of the report's authors, said.

Numbers on internal displacements caused by climate disasters do not generally account for the age of the victims.

But the UN children's agency worked with the non-governmental Internal Displacement Monitoring Center to sift through the data and highlight the hidden tally on children.

Majority displaced due to floods and storms

From 2016 to 2021, four types of climate disasters: floods, storms, droughts and wildfires led to the displacement of 43.1 million children in 44 countries, the report said.

The frequency of these disasters have increased due to global warming.

Among the displacements, 95 per cent (40.9 million) were caused by floods and storms.

While over 1.3 million children were displaced within their countries because of droughts, nearly 810,000 children were displaced because of forest fires, mainly in Canada, Israel and the United States, the report showed.

China and the Philippines were among the nations where the most children were internally displaced, the report said.

But, relative to the size of the child population, children living in small island countries, like Dominica and Vanuatu, were most affected by storms, while children in Somalia and South Sudan were most affected by floods, it added.

"It is terrifying for any child when a ferocious wildfire, storm or flood barrels into their community," UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a statement.

"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. Moving may have saved their lives, but it's also very disruptive," she said.

Russell raised concern about acting "too slowly" in tackling the spiraling challenge for children.

"As the impacts of climate change escalate, so too will climate-driven movement. 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," she pointed out.

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Published: 06 Oct 2023, 11:15 AM