Children in DRC at ‘extremely high risk’ of the impacts of the climate crisis
KINSHASA, 20 AUGUST 2021 – Young people living in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are among those most at risk of the impacts of climate change, threatening their health, education, and protection, according to a UNICEF report launched today.
For the first time, UNICEF ranks countries based on children’s exposure and vulnerability to climate and environmental shocks, with Congolese children being the world’s ninth most vulnerable. ‘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. According to the report, Congolese children are particularly exposed to air, soil and water pollution. Nevertheless, the report shows that investments in social services - particularly around water, sanitation and hygiene, but also social protection - have a significant impact while safeguarding children’s future from climate change consequences.
The DRC is home to the second largest tropical forest in the world with 152 million hectares and it counts about 80 million hectares of arable land. In addition, its water resources represent around 13% of the world's hydroelectric potential. Despite being a resources-rich country, the DRC suffers from deforestation, poaching, river pollution and unsanitary conditions. The DRC has one of the ten highest deforestation rates in the world, with the second largest area of primary forest destroyed in 2020, after Brazil. The destruction of forests, especially when cleared by fire, causes significant damages to the environment and the mankind, further contributing to greenhouse gas emissions - notably considered very dangerous to the development and health of children.
"Congolese children are well aware that climate change threatens their future, and they call on decision-makers to act now,” said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Representative in the DRC. “We must all act together in a concerted way to build a better world for all children."
In the DRC, the young people aged 0 to 24 years represents 67.4% of the Congolese population, of which 48.7% are children under 14 years. UNICEF is committed to helping Congolese youth take action to protect their future and their planet by raising their voices and participating in the effort to combat climate change and the preservation of their environment.
To support these advocacy efforts to preserve our environment, the Child Reporters trained by UNICEF produced a documentary titled Young people and climate change, as well as a publication featuring their concerns around the environmental and climate challenges they face on a daily basis. "We are the Congolese youth and we are committed to defending the rights of the child for a more equal, fairer and more sustainable world," said Ketsia, 16 years-old, a Child Reporter trained by UNICEF in Kinshasa. "We have rights, and we intend to defend them! We want all generations to come together to re-imagine the world of tomorrow. We must act together for the good of all.”
UNICEF is calling on governments, businesses and relevant stakeholders to:
- 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.
- 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 in order to keep warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
- Provide children with climate education and greens 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.
- Include young people in all national, regional and international climate negotiations and decisions, including at COP26. Children’s and young people’s voice must be included in all climate-related decision making.
- Ensure for a green, low-carbon and inclusive recovery, so as not to compromise the ability of future generations to cope with climate change.
Note to editors :
In support of the Congolese government, UNICEF is committed to empowering and gives a voice to young people across the DRC to be changemakers and to further take action to defend their rights. Aged 10 to 17, Child Reporters are girls and boys from all social backgrounds who work towards achieving better social protection, education, health and participation of all children in the DRC. Introduced to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and to basic journalistic techniques, Child Reporters become aware of their rights and make their voices heard through various media outlets.