New UNICEF analysis shows that East Asia and the Pacific accounts for the most weather-related child displacements in the world
East Asia and Pacific region accounts for more than 44 per cent of global child displacements linked to weather-related disasters such as floods and storms
BANGKOK/NEW YORK, 6 October 2023 – Weather-related disasters caused 43.1 million internal displacements of children in 44 countries over a six-year period – or approximately 20,000 child displacements a day - according to a new UNICEF analysis released today. Children Displaced in a Changing Climate is the first global analysis of the number of children driven from their homes between 2016 and 2021 due to floods, storms, droughts and wildfires, and looks at projections for the next 30 years.
According to the analysis, East Asia and Pacific experienced an estimated 19 million child displacements linked to weather-related disasters between 2016 and 2021, representing more than 44 per cent of the global total.
Most displacements of children in East Asia and Pacific were triggered by floods, which led to over 12 million displacements, and storms, which led to over 6 million displacements. Aggravated by the naturally occurring La Niña phenomenon, storms such as Typhoon Rai in 2021 led to particularly high numbers of child displacement.
China and the Philippines are among the countries that recorded the highest absolute numbers of child displacements, due to their exposure to extreme weather, large child populations and progress made on early warning and evacuation capacities. However, relative to the size of the child population, children living in small island states such as Vanuatu, Fiji, Palau and the Northern Mariana Islands were most affected by storms. For example, in 2020, Cyclone Harold caused the displacement of nearly a quarter of Vanuatu’s population, including 34,000 children.
“Climate-related displacements upend children’s lives,” said Debora Comini, Regional Director, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific. “Girls and boys displaced by floods and storms face elevated risks to their protection and wellbeing, while their access to healthcare, education, clean water and sanitation services can be cut off. We call on leaders to prepare communities, protect children at risk of displacement, and support those already uprooted.”
Worldwide, floods and storms accounted for 40.9 million - or 95 per cent - of recorded child displacements between 2016 and 2021, due in part to better reporting and more pre-emptive evacuations. Meanwhile, droughts triggered more than 1.3 million internal displacements of children.
Decisions to move can be forced and abrupt in the face of disaster, or as the result of pre-emptive evacuation, where lives may be saved but many children still face the dangers and challenges that come with being uprooted from their homes, often for extended periods.
Children are especially at risk of displacement in countries already grappling with overlapping crises, such as conflict and poverty, where local capacities to cope with any additional displacements of children are strained.
Using a disaster displacement risk model developed by Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, the report projects riverine floods have the potential to displace almost 96 million children worldwide over the next 30 years, based on current climate data, while cyclonic winds and storm surges have the potential to displace 10.3 million and 7.2 million children respectively, over the same period*. With more frequent and more severe weather events as consequence of changing climate, the actual numbers will almost certainly be higher.
UNICEF works with governments in countries most at risk to better prepare for and minimize the risk of displacement, develop and implement child-responsive disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategies, and design resilient and portable services to protect and reach children before, during and after disaster strikes.
As leaders prepare to meet at the COP28 Climate Change Summit in Dubai in November, UNICEF urges governments, donors, development partners, and the private sector to take the following actions to protect children and young people at risk of future displacement and prepare them and their communities:
PROTECT children and young people from the impacts of climate change-exacerbated disasters and displacement by ensuring that child-critical services – including education, health, nutrition, social protection and child protection services – are shock-responsive, portable and inclusive, including for those already uprooted from their homes.
PREPARE children and young people to live in a climate-changed world by improving their adaptive capacity and resilience and enabling their participation in finding inclusive solutions.
PRIORITIZE children and young people – including those already uprooted from their homes – in disaster and climate action and finance, humanitarian and development policy, and investments to prepare for a future already happening.
East Asia and the Pacific remains the most disaster-prone region in the world. Over 210 million children in the region are highly exposed to cyclones; 140 million children are highly exposed to water scarcity; 120 million children are highly exposed to coastal flooding; and 420 million children to air pollution. The region also has significant child and youth populations living in riverine environments, with the Lower Mekong River basin alone home to 30 million children and young people across Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam.
Notes to Editors:
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF East Asia & Pacific and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/eap