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Zambian youth delegates confront climate crisis

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Luyando Katenda, 14, is one of Zambia's youth ambassadors on climate change who attended the Children's Climate Forum in Copenhagen last year. Last week, he helped to organize the first Zambian Children's Climate Conference.

By Guy Hubbard

LUSAKA, Zambia, 3 May 2010 – Luyando Katenda is just 14 years old, but he already speaks like an elder statesman. His platform is climate change, and here in Zambia, he is fast becoming one of the country’s foremost ambassadors on the issue.

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Luyando and three other young Zambian delegates attended the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference and Children’s Climate Forum in Copenhagen, Denmark – and they returned home with a mission. Last week, they organized their country’s first Children’s Climate Conference.

Confronting a crisis

The effects of climate change are wreaking havoc across the African continent. Successive droughts have led to crop failure and starvation, while flooding in several nations – including Zambia, one of the most deforested countries on the planet – has caused death and destruction.

With support from UNICEF and the Zambian Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Natural Resources, Luyando and his fellow ambassadors are bringing together Zambia’s young leaders to address the environmental crisis.

The conference, which took place in Lusaka from 26 to 28 April, was attended by nearly 200 children from all nine provinces of Zambia. Participants learned about climate change issues and attended a series of workshops to help create work plans that they will begin implementing upon returning to their home districts.

“We realized that most Zambians don’t really know about [climate change],” said Luyando.  He added that one of the goals of the conference was to educate young people with information that “keeps on spreading” throughout the country.

VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Guy Hubbard reports on a UNICEF-supported children's arts festival held in connection with the Children's Climate Conference in Lusaka, Zambia.


A role for all

Among the adults who attended the conference was UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Elhadj As Sy.

“It is important for all citizens of the world to become more aware of the facts about climate change, and for everyone to make whatever contribution they can,” said Mr. As Sy. “In Zambia, this might take the form of planting more trees or of using less wood for fuel… There is more that every one of us can do.  We can all contribute in solidarity.”

For their part, young people can help to spread the word about climate change in their communities and work to make it a common household topic. The Zambian climate conference underscored these essential roles by teaching children to capture the attention of their peers. Participants helped to develop information packs on climate change and learned practical skills related to disaster risk reduction, drip irrigation, and flood-proofing homes, schools and hospitals.

Other critical issues

Hon. Catherine Namugala, Zambia’s Minister of Tourism, Environment, and Natural Resources, also attended the conference. She said the government was committed to addressing the challenges of climate change and involving children in the process.

“My ministry is therefore grateful for the opportunity to partner with UNICEF in organizing this important workshop for Zambian children,” she said.

The young delegates will reconvene in August to present progress achieved and continue building their climate change programmes. In addition, they will receive training in HIV and AIDS life skills education.

“The goal is to produce climate ambassadors who also can serve as HIV/AIDS peer educators,” said UNICEF Representative in Zambia Lotta Sylwander. “[This is] a group of young people who can band together to tackle some of the country’s most critical problems.”




29 April 2010: UNICEF correspondent Guy Hubbard reports on the first children’s conference on climate change in Zambia.
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