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Climate change and children in Mozambique

UNICEF Moçambique
© UNICEF Mozambique/2011
All over the world, ecosystems and livelihoods are being affected by climate change.

MAPUTO, Mozambique, 28 November 2011 - Climate change is one of the defining challenges of the twenty-first century. According to the most authoritative source, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the warming of the climate is “unequivocal” given observed increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level (IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, 2007). These effects are attributed, with more than 90 per cent probability, to the rising concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted from human activities, primarily due to fossil fuel use, with land-use changes providing another significant but smaller contribution. Unless immediate and drastic mitigation policies and practices are put in place, global GHG emissions will continue to grow over the next decades, further increasing the risk of irreversible and potentially catastrophic damages.

All over the world, ecosystems and livelihoods are being affected by climate change. Impact on livelihoods can be expected to be sudden, such as droughts and floods, or slower but cumulative such as habitat change and decline in food security and income. While climate change threatens all countries, it is increasingly apparent that the world’s poorest countries and most vulnerable people will bear the brunt of climate change. Developing countries are the most vulnerable because of greater physical exposure but also due to lack of resources and institutions through which climate risks can be managed. The effects of climate change will make it harder to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to sustain development progress over the longer term.


Climate Change and Children

Children represent nearly one third of the world’s population. They not only stand to be the most severely affected by climate change, they are also the future leaders and citizens who will have to live with its consequences. Article 3 of the UNFCCC states that “The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.” Moreover, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and other international instruments and treaties all state that children have the right to participate in public life and that children’s views should be taken into account when discussing issues that affect their lives. Nonetheless, children do not feature much in the broader discourse on climate change and the adaptations needed to respond to it.
UNICEF and other child rights organisations are increasingly investigating the implications of climate change for child well-being. UNICEF is particularly concerned about the link between climate change and increasing vulnerability of children and poor families. Compared to adults, children appear to be more susceptible to adverse environmental conditions such as contaminated water, extreme heat and floods. The reason is their physical, emotional and cognitive conditions relative to those of adults. Moreover, many of the main killers of children (such as malaria, diarrhoea and hunger/undernutrition) are highly sensitive to climatic conditions. Preliminary analysis carried out by UNICE globally suggests a combination of climate change and other drivers of poverty is likely to have major negative effects on child well-being.


Climate Change and Children in Mozambique

Future climate scenarios, suggest that Mozambique’s exposure to natural hazards will increase as extreme weather patterns will also become more prevalent as a result of climate change. Records from 1960-2005 indicate a warming trend in central and north Mozambique of 1.1 - 1.6oC in maximum temperatures and to significant increases in duration of heat waves, as well as a delay in the start of the rainfall season. By 2040-2060, maximum temperatures are expected to increase by 2.5 - 3.0oC in the interior. Regional climate patterns suggest an increase in the length of the dry season and a propensity for shorter more intense rainfall periods.

It is expected that there will be increased variability in weather and climate compared with the current variability: this means more intense droughts; unpredictable rains, floods and uncontrolled fires. Depending on global sea-level rise scenarios, coastal rural residential centres will need to revise infrastructure particularly water sources. The impacts of climate change present a new set of challenges in our efforts to reduce poverty and promote social justice. Changing temperatures, erratic rainfall, floods, cyclones and droughts all have significant consequences for the livelihoods, health, food security, educational opportunities and the survival of people living in poverty.

From a longer term perspective, Mozambique faces the risks of gradual environmental degradation resulting from climate change, deforestation and soil erosion. Dependent on small-scale rain-fed agriculture, with low levels of productivity, many rural Mozambican households are highly vulnerable to erratic patterns of rainfall. Household vulnerability also shows strong seasonal characteristics, with acute lean periods in the months preceding harvests, especially in October-January. We must understand how natural hazards that may be exacerbated by the climate change affects a community – who is vulnerable to the effects, and why, and we need to apply this information in order to design programs that will reduce people’s vulnerabilities to risks.

To remain effective, UNICEF development programs must manage risks taking into consideration both the current and future climatic factors. Following this will ensure enhanced coping capacities for vulnerable communities as well as enable adaptation for future shocks and stresses. Mainstreaming climate change adaptation into development programmes can increase the sustainability and impact of interventions for sectors such as water, agriculture, livelihoods, education and health. In order to reduce vulnerability to climate change, UNICEF will encourage the building of adaptive capacities, particularly for those most vulnerable people. The cost of taking action now is much lower than paying the price later.

For more information please contact:

Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:






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