Children in Kyrgyzstan at ‘high risk’ of the impacts of the climate crisis - UNICEF
For the first time, UNICEF ranks countries based on children’s exposure and vulnerability to climate and environmental shocks, with Kyrgyzstani children the world’s 94 most vulnerable.
NEW YORK/BISHKEK, 20 August 2021 – Young people living in Kyrgyzstan are among those most at risk of the impacts of climate change, threatening their health, education, and protection, according to a UNICEF report launched today.
‘The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index' is the first comprehensive analysis of climate risk from a child’s perspective. It ranks countries based on children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks, such as cyclones and heatwaves, as well as their vulnerability to those shocks, based on their access to essential services.
Launched in collaboration with Fridays for Future on the third anniversary of the youth-led global climate strike movement, the report finds approximately 1 billion children – nearly half the world's 2.2 billion children – live in one of the 33 countries classified as “extremely high-risk”. The findings reflect the number of children impacted today; figures likely to get worse as the impacts of climate change accelerate.
Kyrgyzstan is ranked 94th out of 163 countries. The report found Kyrgyzstani children are highly exposed to air pollution and water scarcity, but also that investments in climate shock resilient social services, particularly in children’s health and their access to proper water, sanitation and hygiene services can make a significant difference in our ability to safeguard their wellbeing and futures from the impacts of climate change.
“The climate crisis is a child’s rights crisis,” said Yulia Oleinik, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Kyrgyzstan. “Kyrgyzstan is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in Central Asia. Nearly all of the country is vulnerable to frequent earthquakes, avalanches, floods, mudflows and landslides, putting more than 1 million children prone to potential climate induced disaster risks that would further significantly deteriorate their wellbeing and their access to energy, natural and water resources. With the worsening air pollution in Bishkek city, сases of child asthma and respiratory disease-related morbidity increase annually impacting over 300,000 children. Therefore, political will and urgent bold action are required from the decision-makers today to protect the well-being of children today and in the future.”
The Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI) reveals:
- 240 million children are highly exposed to coastal flooding;
- 330 million children are highly exposed to riverine flooding;
- 400 million children are highly exposed to cyclones;
- 600 million children are highly exposed to vector-borne diseases;
- 815 million children are highly exposed to lead pollution;
- 820 million children are highly exposed to heatwaves;
- 920 million children are highly exposed to water scarcity;
- 1 billion children are highly exposed to exceedingly high levels of air pollution
An estimated 850 million children – 1 in 3 worldwide – live in areas where at least four of these climate and environmental shocks overlap. As many as 330 million children – 1 in 7 worldwide – live in areas affected by at least five major shocks.
Without urgent actions, children will continue to suffer the most. Compared to adults, children require more food and water per unit of their body weight, are less able to survive extreme weather events, and are more susceptible to air pollution, temperature changes and diseases, among other factors.
UNICEF is calling on governments, businesses and relevant actors to:
- Increase investment in climate adaptation and resilience in key services for children. To protect children, communities and the most vulnerable from the worst impacts of the already changing climate, critical services must be adapted, including water, sanitation and hygiene systems, health and education services.
- Provide children with climate education and greens skills, critical for their adaptation to and preparation for the effects of climate change. Children and young people will face the full devastating consequences of the climate crisis and water insecurity, yet they are the least responsible. We have a duty to all young people and future generations.
- Include young people in all national, regional and international climate negotiations and decisions, including at COP26. Children and young people must be included in all climate-related decision making.
- Ensure the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is green, low-carbon and inclusive so that the capacity of future generations to address and respond to the climate crisis is not compromised.
Notes to Editors:
The CCRI was developed in collaboration with several partners including the Data for Children Collaborative.
In order to make the report more accessible to global youth, UNICEF also collaborated with Climate Cardinals, an international youth-led non-profit which translates climate change research and information so that they can reach as many young people and leaders as possible.
 Annual mean exposure >35µg/m3
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.