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Zambian children’s climate conference set to get underway

First National Children’s Climate Conference since Copenhagen

LUSAKA / ZAMBIA, 26 April 2010 - The Government of the Republic of Zambia and UNICEF will host the Zambian Children's Climate Conference in Lusaka, Zambia from April 26-28, 2010. The national conference is the first of its kind in the world since the international Children's Climate Forum was held last November in Copenhagen, Denmark.

According to UNICEF Zambia Country Representative Lotta Sylwander, “The country has never held these type of activities before, especially when children themselves are designing them. We sent two of our Ambassadors along with two other students to the Copenhagen Climate Conference and they did extraordinarily well and were a great credit to their country. Upon their return, they briefed me and we immediately began to plan a Zambian version of the COP15 – but UNICEF insisted children themselves organize and hold the event.”

The conference brings together nearly 200 children from all nine provinces of Zambia. The participants will be educated about climate change issues and will attend a series of adaptation and mitigation workshops in order to create work plans that they will begin implementing when they return to their home districts.  The delegates, aged 12 to 18, will reconvene in August to present the progress they’ve achieved, continue with their climate change orientation, and will also be given training in HIV/AIDS lifeskills education.

The conference is co-organized by UNICEF and the Ministry of Tourism, Environment, and Natural Resources, through its Climate Change Facilitation Unit.

“The goal is to produce climate ambassadors who also can serve as HIV/AIDS peer educators, and to develop a group of young people who can band together to tackle some of the country’s most critical problems,” said Sylwander.

In the past few months many areas of Zambia experienced terrible floods that caused widespread devastation. Children in affected areas were not able to get to school and education was disrupted, and some children drowned in the floodwater. As they are the most vulnerable, children will face the brunt of the impacts of climate change in the future. Many of the main killers of children, including malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and malnutrition, are highly sensitive to climatic conditions and are expected to worsen as the world gets warmer.

“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 do themselves, or with their families and local communities, to reduce climate change and protect the environment,” said UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa  Regional Director, Mr. Elhadj Amadou Gueye Sy, who will be attending the conference. “In Zambia this might take the form of planting more trees, or of using less wood for fuel.  It might take the form of disposing of rubbish more carefully and responsibly, or of using fewer plastic bags. It may mean increasing the use of solar powered lighting rather than relying on kerosene lamps in rural areas, and on using electricity more efficiently in urban areas. There is more that every one of us can do.  We can all contribute in solidarity.”

Children are also important in getting the message across about climate change. The knowledge and skills that young people require to address the rapidly changing environment are often different from what they learn in school. The Zambian Children's Climate Conference will teach young people that they can do their part to address climate change in their communities, and that they need to work hard to capture the attention of their peers. The mitigation and adaption sessions will address surviving climate impacts such as disaster risk reduction, drip irrigation, flood-proofing homes, schools, and hospitals. The goal is to make climate change a household topic in Zambia and to develop “Pay it Forward” information packs that can be distributed in both rural and urban settings.

The Zambian Children's Climate Conference will make Zambians aware of these important issues and will ensure that the voices of young children are heard and taken into consideration at local, national, and global levels.

“Government is committed to address climate change with the seriousness it deserves and recognizes the importance of involving our children in this process,” said the Hon. Minister of Tourism, Environment, and Natural Resources, Catherine Namugala, MP. “My Ministry is therefore grateful for the opportunity to partner with UNICEF in organizing this important workshop for Zambian Children. I wish the Zambia Children Climate Conference every success.”

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Patrick Slavin, Chief, Communications, UNICEF Zambia, Tel +260-211-252055, E-mail: pslavin@unicef.org,

Betty C. Nalungwe, Senior Communications Assistant, UNICEF Zambia, Tel + 260-211 252055, E-mail: bcnalungwe@unicef.org

Kerry Constabile, Specialist, Environment and Young People, UNICEF, Tel + 917 833 2514, E-Mail: kconstabile@unicef.org




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