Children in Cambodia at ‘very high risk’ of the impacts of the climate crisis - UNICEF

For the first time, UNICEF ranks countries based on children’s exposure and vulnerability to climate and environmental shocks, with Cambodian children ranked the world’s 46th most vulnerable among 163 countries.

23 August 2021
Children in Cambodia at ‘very high risk’ of the impacts of the climate crisis - UNICEF
UNICEF Cambodia/2017/Bona KHOY

Phnom Penh, 20 August 2021 – Young people living in Cambodia are among those most at risk of the impacts of climate change,threatening their health, education, and protection, according to a UNICEF global report launched today.

‘The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index’ is the first comprehensive analysis of climate risk from a child’s perspective. It ranks countries based on children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks, such as cyclones and heatwaves, as well as their vulnerability to those shocks, based on their access to essential services.

Launched in collaboration with Fridays for Future on the third anniversary of the youth-led global climate strike movement, the report finds approximately 1 billion children – nearly half the world's 2.2 billion children – live in one of the 33 countries classified as “extremely high-risk”. The findings reflect the number of children impacted today; figures likely to get worse as the impacts of climate change accelerate.                         

Cambodia ranks 46th out of 163 countries, , which is in the top third of countries with a high risk to climate change. The report found Cambodian children are highly exposed to water scarcity, riverine flooding and vector-borne disease. But investments in social services, particularly access to water, sanitation and hygiene, health and nutrition, education and social protection services, can make a significant difference in our ability to safeguard their futures from the impacts of climate change.

“The climate crisis is a child’s rights crisis because it threatens all aspects of children’s health and wellbeing, on a scale humanity has never experienced before,” said Foroogh Foyouzat, UNICEF Cambodia Representative. Climate change has made the world a riskier place for children to live and grow in, but we can prevent it from becoming worse if we act now. We need to invest in services they depend upon to survive and thrive– such as water, healthcare and education infrastructure and services and make them more resilient. Strong systems and services will help to protect their futures from the impacts of a changing climate and degrading environment.”

”Children in East Asia and the Pacific countries are on the frontline of the climate crisis and the climate hazards they face, from lethal heat waves and drought to flooding to wildfires, are already becoming more severe and intense. The region is one of the most vulnerable to climate-related disasters globally, with about half of the population directly affected every year,” stated Marcoluigi Corsi, UNICEF Regional Director a.i. while adding that the  climate crisis disproportionally affects the most vulnerable children and adolescents, exacerbating current inequalities and undermining the progress achieved over the last few decades.

The Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI) reveals:

  • 240 million children are highly exposed to coastal flooding;
  • 330 million children are highly exposed to riverine flooding;
  • 400 million children are highly exposed to cyclones;
  • 600 million children are highly exposed to vector borne diseases;
  • 815 million children are highly exposed to lead pollution;
  • 820 million children are highly exposed to heatwaves;
  • 920 million children are highly exposed to water scarcity;
  • 1 billion children are highly exposed to exceedingly high levels of air pollution

An estimated 850 million children – 1 in 3 worldwide – live in areas where at least four of these climate and environmental shocks overlap. As many as 330 million children – 1 in 7 worldwide – live in areas affected by at least five major shocks. In addition, the dual challenges of climate change and COVID-19 compound on each other and children bear a disproportionate share of the impact of both climate change and COVID-19. Today’s children are not only the generation that will have to live with the consequences of climate change, but they are also disproportionately represented in vulnerable households.

The report also reveals a disconnect between where greenhouse gas emissions are generated, and where children are enduring the most significant climate-driven impacts. The 33 extremely high-risk countries collectively emit just 9 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Conversely, the 10 highest emitting countries collectively account for nearly 70 per cent of global emissions. Only one of these countries is ranked as ‘extremely high-risk’ in the index. East Asia and the Pacific countries are also responsible for an increasingly large share of global CO2 emissions with China (30.30%), Japan (3.25%), Republic of Korea (1.85%) and Indonesia (1.71%) ranked among the top 20 biggest emitters of CO2 globally.

“Climate crisis is affecting everyone and children are among the most vulnerable,” said Foroogh Foyouzat. The World and Cambodian children know climate change is a threat to their future, and they are calling on the world leaders and everybody to act. We need to listen to them, their concerns and needs, and integrate them into all climate-related decision making. At the same time, we urgently need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase investment in climate adaptation and resilience in key services for them.” 

Without the urgent action required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, children will continue to suffer the most. Compared to adults, children require more food and water per unit of their body weight, are less able to survive extreme weather events, and are more susceptible to toxic chemicals, temperature changes and diseases, among other factors.

UNICEF is calling on governments, businesses and relevant actors to:

  1. Increase investment in climate adaptation and resilience in key services for children. To protect children, communities and the most vulnerable from the worst impacts of the already changing climate, critical services must be adapted, including water, sanitation and hygiene systems, health and education services.
  2. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis, comprehensive and urgent action is required. Countries must cut their emissions by at least 45% (compared to 2010 levels) by 2030 to keep warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  3. Provide children with climate education and green skills, critical for their adaptation to and preparation for the effects of climate change. Children and young people will face the full devastating consequences of the climate crisis and water insecurity, yet they are the least responsible. We have a duty to all young people and future generations.
  4. Include young people in all national, regional and international climate negotiations and decisions, including at COP26. Children and young people must be included in all climate-related decision making. 
  5. Ensure the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is green, low-carbon and inclusive, so that the capacity of future generations to address and respond to the climate crisis is not compromised.


Notes to Editors:

The CCRI was developed in collaboration with several partners including the Data for Children Collaborative.

In order to make the report more accessible to global youth, UNICEF also collaborated with Climate Cardinals, an international youth led non-profit which translates climate change research and information so that they can reach as many young people and leaders as possible.

Read the report

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Media contacts

Rudina Vojvoda
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Cambodia
Tel: +85523260204;ext=434
Bunly Meas
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Cambodia
Tel: +85523260204;ext=435


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