The Climate Crisis

Climate change impacts, trends and vulnerabilities: Children in sub-Saharan Africa


This report reviews the climate change risks, trends and impacts and the related vulnerabilities on children in sub--Saharan Africa. The report also outlines UNICEF’s response to this crisis and advocates for concerted actions by governments, UN agencies, donors and financing partners the private sector and others in order to ensure that every child survives and thrives; every child learns; every child is protected from violence and exploitation; every child lives in a safe and clean environment; every child has an equitable chance in life and that we have an environment fit for children and future generations.

The report notes implications of climate change for children in sub-Saharan Africa are enormous as young people make up 63 per cent of the population in this region. Between 2017 and 2050, the child and youth population in the region is expected to more than double to 945 million, with declines expected in other regions of the world.

Modelling for different climate futures in the report for children in sub-Saharan Africa indicate that subtropical southern Africa could see impacts on health services, education services and overall water security. The report notes a decrease in annual precipitation of up to 30 per cent, contributing to an increase in aridity in the region. In the coastal areas, projected sea-level rise would increase flooding, particularly on the coasts of Kenya, Madagascar and Mozambique in eastern Africa, increasing the high socio-economic and physical vulnerability of coastal cities. In addition in East Africa, approximately 10 million children live around Lake Victoria, which is also prone to flooding.

Child rights deprivations resulting from climate change include:

  • As temperatures increase and water becomes scarcer, it is children who will feel the deadliest impact of water-borne diseases and malnutrition with thousands made sick by polluted water;
  • Developmental gains in education are offset due to damage or destruction of school facilities, extended disruption of education, and limited access to schooling;
  • Climate change drives inequality and creates and prolongs poverty traps, with children and adolescents particularly exposed.
  • Up to two-thirds of preventable illness and death from environmental hazards is experienced by children, with the burden predominantly in those aged under five years.

The report provides case studies from UNICEFs Climate Adaptation programming in West, Central, East and Southern Africa. These examples include Climate Resilient WASH in Ethiopia and Madagascar, the circular economy in Cote D’Ivoire, reducing UNICEFs carbon footprint in logistics operations in South Sudan and climate proofing Health, Nutrition, HIV, Protection and Education services across the sub-continent.

The report is authored by UNICEF and reflects the UNICEF experience in Climate Adaptation in Africa.

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