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Bangladeshi teenagers discuss climate change in Copenhagen

© UNICEF Bangladesh\2009\AHT Ahmed
Bangaldesh children delegates present their poster during the Children's Climate Forum in Copenhagen. The poster of Bangladesh has drown the attention of participants including the media
Sophie McNamara

Dhaka, 26th November 2009.  Four Bangladeshi teenagers are now in Copenhagen to share their perspectives on climate change with 160 other young people from more than 40 countries.

The Children’s Climate Forum, organised by UNICEF and the City of Copenhagen, is held a week prior to the United Nations Climate Change Conference. It will culminate in the adoption of a resolution with recommendations for global action which will be presented to world leaders at the conference.

Bangladesh’s youth delegates - Arif Arman, Miti Annesha, Tariqul Islam and Fatema Akhter – are living on the frontline of climate change. Their communities are already affected by the increased natural disasters that scientists warn will accompany global warming. hildren hang on their poster in the assigned place.

Already the poster presented at the Forum by the young Bangladeshi participants has drown a lot of attention from participants, including both print and broadcast media.  The Danish Television and one of the largest Danish paper interviewed them.

Arif, 13, comes from Satkhira, a district in south-western Bangladesh that was devastated by Cyclone Aila in May this year. He has photos and stories to show the other delegates how his community continues to be affected by the aftermath of this cyclone, six months after the event.

“There are still many classrooms that are partially or totally damaged from Aila. Some are still submerged by seawater. Children are taking their classes on the roadside or wherever they can, so it is affecting their education,” says Arif.

© UNICEF Bangladesh\2009\AHT Ahmed
Bangladesh child delegate Annesha raising some issues during a plenary session of the Children's Climate Forum in Copenhagen.
Fatema, 16, has also witnessed first-hand the effects of climate change in her district of Noakhali.

“The impact of climate change is visible now, particularly on the remote, low-lying islands. High tides are reaching an abnormal level, so they sometimes submerge the land and even homes. There are more insects, which leads to more diseases. There is also an increased risk of drowning among young children,” she says.

None of the teenagers have ever left Bangladesh before and they are excited by the prospect of sharing their stories with young people from around the world.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to do something for my country and to demonstrate how children in Bangladesh are being affected. I’m proud to be representing Bangladeshi children,” says Tariqul, 16.

The young Bangladeshis will perform a 15-minute drama at the conference that expresses the physical and mental harm that cyclones can inflict on children.

“After Cyclone Sidr in 2007 many children were traumatised. Some never recovered fully. They continued to have nightmares about the storms returning, and would tell their parents, ‘I think the cyclone’s coming again’. When Aila hit this year, it was like re-opening old wounds,”, explains AH Towfique Ahmed, UNICEF’s Barisal Divisional Co-ordinator who is accompanying the children to the Copenhagen forum.

The children will also present their recommendations on what global action is needed to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

“There could be some investment in raising the awareness of people in coastal areas about what to do and what not to do when a cyclone hits,” says Arif.

The four delegates were selected for the Forum through an essay-writing competition in which they described how climate change had impacted their lives. The competition was organised by the Mass Line Media Center, a Bangladeshi NGO working in partnership with UNICEF to train young journalists.



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