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Impact of environmental degradation and emergencies on children in Mozambique – Part 3

Impact of environmental degradation and emergencies on children in Mozambique – Part 3
© UNICEF Mozambique
Children are particularly vulnerable to emergencies in terms of their education, health and safety.

MAPUTO, Mozambique, 19 May 2011 – This is the third and last of three articles about the impact of environmental degradation and emergencies on children in Mozambique. The focus of this article is about the effect of the environment and emergencies on education and child protection.

Children’s education is another area that is affected by both long-term and short-term environmental conditions. Poorly constructed schools are often damaged or destroyed by severe storms and cyclones. In 2008, for example, the cyclone Jokwe disrupted the education of more than 38,000 students. Long-term disasters, such as droughts, often cause children to drop out of school, either because they must perform additional work, such as fetching water, or simply because they lack the energy to focus on their studies as a result of under nutrition.

Environmental pollution and natural resources management affect the success of government interventions in education. Illnesses caused by environmental factors like air and water pollution have an impact on school attendance rates. Undernourishment, whether due to soil depletion or loss of harvest, will affect children’s ability to absorb instruction. Deforestation and lack of safe water close to the household may also affect children’s attendance rates, as they spend more time collecting firewood and water. These situations can also affect teachers and their attendance rates.

Children who have been displaced because of natural disasters face additional challenges with regard to their education. The impact of extreme climatic events and the increasing scarcity of water due to climate change are likely to increase the number of displaced people in Mozambique. Temporary migration can cause children to miss school and can also cause overcrowding in locations that receive many environmental refugees. The term ‘environmental chaos’ has been used to describe situations with high levels of noise and crowding and lack of structure or daily routines, which is the situation faced by many children in pot-disaster settings. This sort of chaos has been observed to negatively affect children’s learning and social interactions.

The protection of children is a particular challenge in emergency situations, as children are exposed to greater risks of family separation sexual exploitation and psychosocial trauma. Disruption of social services particularly affects orphans and vulnerable children in their access to basic services.

Although there has been little research conducted on the impact of emergencies on child protection concerns in Mozambique, reports from a mission of the Government’s vulnerability assessment committee in 2005 raised concern over the use of negative coping strategies by children in drought-affected areas, such as ‘survival sex’ for money, which increases their vulnerability to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Environmental issues affect children in myriad ways, and the effects of environmental degradation are likely to intensify in coming years. Environmental degradation negatively affects the development of Mozambique as a country and has profound negative effects on children individually. Children are particularly vulnerable to emergencies in terms of their education, health and safety. Emergencies are likely to intensify as climate change increases the occurrence of cyclones and other adverse weather shocks in Mozambique in coming years.

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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