India is among the world’s most disaster-prone countries with 27 of its 29 states and seven union territories exposed to recurrent natural hazards such as cyclones, earthquakes, landslides, floods and droughts. Climate change and environmental degradation have further compounded the frequency and intensity of disasters along with increasing the vulnerability of key assets including people. In addition, almost one third of the country is also affected by civil strife.
A reality that is often overlooked in programme development and policy making is that children are the most at-risk from the impact of natural disasters and conflicts.
In five major natural disasters from 2000-2016 some 17,671 children lost their lives. The 2015-2016 drought in ten states affected an estimated 330 million people, including 37 million children under age five.
Many aspects of children’s lives are affected adversely including, but not limited to dropping out of school due to schools being used for other purposes such as shelters during natural disasters, missing immunization due to disruption of health services and the non-availability of nutritious food, clean water and sanitation facilities leading to malnourishment and diseases. In addition during disasters there are also increased incidences of violence, exploitation and abuse as well as child marriage, trafficking and child labour.
Considering the frequency of recurrent floods, droughts, severe weather or conflict in different locations across India, development results for women and children, particularly from marginalized communities, are adversely impacted or compromised.