Children will bear brunt of climate change impact, new study says
By Richard Nyamanhindi
Children will bear the brunt of the impact of climate change because of their increased risk of health problems, malnutrition and migration, according to a new study by the Institute of Environmental Studies.
The findings were revealed during a Children and Climate Change Policy Dialogue meeting recently held at UNICEF to produce the most comprehensive assessment yet of the impact of climate change on children in Zimbabwe.
The results revealed that climate change is almost certainly caused by human actions, and that it is already leading to a rise in temperature, flooding and droughts.
The policy dialogue was as a result of recognizing that although children are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, they have been largely left out of the debate.
“We are hurtling towards a future where the gains being made for the world’s children are threatened and their health, wellbeing, livelihoods and survival are compromised … despite being the least responsible for the causes,” said Samson Muradzikwa, UNICEF Chief of Social Policy. “We need to listen to them.”
Children born last year will come of age in 2030, by which time the effects of climate change in the form of an increase in droughts, floods and storms are likely to be more in evidence. In the most vulnerable countries such as Zimbabwe children under the age of 18 make up more than 50 per cent of the population and thus they will feel the major impact of climate change.
According to the results from the study, more children in Zimbabwe will suffer malnourishment because of climate change, with a further number suffering food insecurity, where they and their families are on the verge of running out.
Children are among the many thousands of people estimated to have to flee their homes because of climate change and will suffer more than adults because of their relative lack of resources and higher vulnerability to disease. Evidence of this is already being seen in such areas as Masvingo, Gokwe and Tsholotsho.
The research shows that more than 60 percent of children in both rural and urban areas are very concerned about climate change and their three major concerns are to do with food scarcity, health and water scarcity.
“Children are inheriting the climate problems, and that is why it is only natural that they have a say in the matter,” said Mr. I Kununene, the Director in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate. So far, we have experienced a decrease in the child mortality rate, but the progress we have made is at risk of being jeopardized by the climate changes. That is why the Ministry wants to enter far more actively in the battle on climate change,” Kunene added.
The study also shows that it is critically important for children and young people to be involved in finding solutions to climate change. Empowered by knowledge and information, they can be real agents of positive environmental change.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says that children have the right to be a part of decision making which affects them, and below are some of the issues they raised during the study:
“The winters have become so unpredictable, one year it is so cold and unpredictable and the other year it is warm,” said a child from Hwange.
“Water has become so scarce that we have to share the little that is available with animals,” said a boy from Mbire.
“Children’s education is being affected during droughts,” said a girl from Chimanimani.
Read more on Children’s Voices and Climate Change