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Young people raise awareness about climate change in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati

‘The State of the World’s Children 2011 – Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity,’ UNICEF’s new flagship report, focuses on the development and rights of more than a billion children aged 10 to 19 worldwide. This series of stories, essays and multimedia features seeks to accelerate and elevate adolescents’ fight against poverty, inequality and gender discrimination. Here is one of the stories.

By Tomas Jensen

TARAWA, Kiribati, 4 March 2011 – In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the young people of Kiribati are experiencing a disaster that is slowly and steadily eroding their culture and home.

VIDEO: UNICEF reports on adolescents in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati raising awareness about the impact of climate change.  Watch in RealPlayer


Their nation’s beautiful, low-lying atolls are pounded day and night by rising sea levels, which crowd in on scarce supplies of fresh water and limited patches of fertile land. Their lives are challenged by ever more frequent droughts, as well as diversions of funding away from the education, health, transportation and communications infrastructure to deal with the adverse effects of climate change.

Solving environmental problems

To the adolescents of Kiribati, the impact of this slow disaster – a topic often encountered in the media but not experienced directly by many around the world – is already frightening and real.

© UNICEF video
A rising sea level poses a serious threat to the small Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati.

Kiribati, a country made up of 32 atolls and an island, and home to a population of about 100,000 people, is on the front line of climate change.

Groups of adolescents have long been active here in informing their peers and communities about climate change and coming up with solutions to mitigate the impact. With a marginal contribution to global emissions, Kiribati is, however fully dependant on global and collective solutions to global environmental problems.

Urgent action needed

The voice of adolescents from the atoll nation is echoed in the ‘The State of the World’s Children 2011,’ in an article by His Excellency Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati. And UNICEF is a committed long-term partner to the girls and boys of Kiribati and other Small Developing Islands States, supporting their participation in the global climate-change debate and decision-making process.

© UNICEF Pacific/2011/Jensen
Youths in Kiribati are experiencing the effects of climate change.

Their message, and that of their president, is clear and relevant to everyone on the planet: Climate change is eating away our adolescents’ future and placing their physical and mental development at risk. Urgent action is required from every family, community and government to address climate change and its consequences.



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