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Children are at the heart of disaster-resilient communities

UNICEF Report on Climate Change illustrates the importance of children in mitigating the risks of climate change and disasters, and ensuring sustainable human development

KUALA LUMPUR, 12 June 2012 – Children’s unique vulnerability and experiences to climate change make them vital to a nation’s ability to adapt to, and mitigate environmental disasters and ensure sustainable human development, highlights a recent regional report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), titled “Children’s vulnerability to climate change and disaster impacts in East Asia and the Pacific”.

“Findings illustrate that children are already reporting the ramifications of climate change in their lives,” says UNICEF Deputy Representative to Malaysia, Dr. Victor Karunan. “However, evidence also shows that when children are educated, informed and involved, they are better able to prepare and protect themselves and that they share this information with their communities.”

The Report which presents an analysis of climate change trends and potential impacts on children in East Asia and the Pacific draws on findings from five UNICEF-commissioned country studies in Indonesia, Kiribati, Mongolia, the Philippines and Vanuatu, as well as children’s own perspectives on climate change and other research.

Climatic impacts

According to the Report, current and future implications of climatic impacts on South East Asian countries including Malaysia are the decrease in the availability of fresh water as well sea level rises leading to salt water intrusion and coastal flooding causing significant losses in environment and coastal ecosystems.

The impacts of more frequent disasters such as flooding, cyclones and droughts can adversely affect sustainable development in the region. This includes agricultural production with a reduction of crop yields ranging from 5% to 30% by 2050 leading to higher food prices and the risk of hunger. Rising temperatures on the other hand have been linked to increased rates of malnutrition, cholera, diarrhoeal disease and vector-borne diseases like dengue.

“For families just barely able to meet their basic needs, any additional income stress from delayed harvests or increased food costs could drive families to withdrawing children from school or selling off assets needed to help them cope,” adds Dr. Karunan. Unfortunately, it is children in the poorest 20% of the population who are much more vulnerable to the impact of climate change because they already lack the resources and opportunities needed to cope."

Sustainable development

Climate change, the Report highlights, is not only an environmental issue, it is also an issue relating to sustainable development, underpinned by basic questions of equity — fairness, social justice and greater access to a better quality of life for all children and their families.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development or Rio+20 that will take place in Rio, Brazil this month echoes these arguments around equity. Themed “The Future We Want”, Rio+20 aims to define pathways to a sustainable future for all people, including the poorest: a future with more clean energy, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, a decent standard of living for all and disaster-resilient communities.

“Investments in sustainable development strategies today will help prevent or diminish climate change and its risks on children,” adds Dr. Karunan. “This means implementing specific child-friendly policies and programs, addressing social inequalities as well as strengthening broader socio-economic development for all. Sustainable development is about creating A World Fit for Children.”


Note to Editor:


In 2011, UNICEF commissioned field research in Indonesia, Kiribati, Mongolia, Philippines and Vanuatu to see if there were noticeable patterns and trends of climate change and disaster impacts on children. In addition to an extensive literature review, the studies included interviews and surveys with children and youth to assess their experiences of climate change and its potential impacts. This research was supported by Reed Elsevier, which works in partnership with the global science and health communities to publish more than 2,000 journals, including The Lancet and New Scientist. To read the Report:

For more information, please contact:

Indra Kumari Nadchatram
UNICEF Media, Malaysia
+6012 292 6872,

Sasha Surandran
UNICEF Media, Malaysia
+6019 658 5160,





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