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At a glance: Denmark

Bangladeshi teenagers discuss impact of climate change in Copenhagen

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2009/Ahmed
Bangladeshi children delegates present their poster during the Children's Climate Forum in Copenhagen, and are interviewed by Danish TV. The poster of Bangladesh is the focus of attention for many participants including the media.

By Sophie McNamara

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, 3 December 2009 - Four Bangladeshi teenagers are now in Copenhagen to share their perspectives on climate change with 160 other young people from 44 countries. The Children’s Climate Forum, organised by UNICEF and the City of Copenhagen, is held a week prior to the United Nations Climate Change Conference. It will culminate in the adoption of a resolution with recommendations for global action, which will be presented to world leaders at the conference.

Bangladesh’s youth delegates – Arif Arman, Miti Annesha, Tariqul Islam and Fatema Akhter – are living on the front line of climate change. Their communities are already affected by the increase in natural disasters that scientists warn will accompany global warming.

The poster presented at the Forum by the young Bangladeshi participants has drawn a lot of attention from participants, including from both print and broadcast media.  They have been interviewed by Danish Television and one of the largest Danish newspapers.

‘Impact of climate change is visible’

Arif, 13, comes from Satkhira, a district in south-western Bangladesh that was devastated by Cyclone Aila in May of this year. He has photos and stories to show the other delegates to illustrate how his community continues to be affected by the aftermath of the cyclone.

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2009/Ahmed
Young delegates from Bangladesh participated in the Children's Climate Forum in Copenhagen. Children in Bangladesh are being directly affected by climate change.

“There are still many classrooms that are partially or totally damaged from Aila,” said Arif. “Some are still submerged by seawater. Children are taking their classes on the roadside or wherever they can, so it is affecting their education.”

Fatema, 16, has also witnessed first-hand the effects of climate change in her district of Noakhali.

“The impact of climate change is visible now, particularly on the remote, low-lying islands,” she said. “High tides are reaching an abnormal level, so they sometimes submerge the land and even homes. There are more insects, which leads to more diseases. There is also an increased risk of drowning among young children.”

None of the teenagers had ever left Bangladesh before and they were excited by the prospect of sharing their stories with young people from around the world. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to do something for my country and to demonstrate how children in Bangladesh are being affected. I’m proud to be representing Bangladeshi children,” said Tariqul, 16.

Coming from a traumatic experience

The young Bangladeshis will perform a 15-minute drama at the conference that expresses the physical and mental harm that cyclones can inflict on children.

“After Cyclone Sidr, in 2007, many children were traumatised,” explained AH Towfique Ahmed, UNICEF’s Barisal Divisional Co-ordinator, who is accompanying the children to the Copenhagen forum. “Some never recovered fully. They continued to have nightmares about the storms returning, and would tell their parents, ‘I think the cyclone’s coming again’. When Aila hit this year, it was like re-opening old wounds.”

The children will also present their recommendations on what global actions are needed to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The four delegates were selected for the Forum through an essay-writing competition in which they described how climate change had impacted their lives. The competition was organised by the Mass Line Media Center, a Bangladeshi Non-Governmental Organization working in partnership with UNICEF to train young journalists.



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