UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell's remarks at the 2023 UN Water Conference event - From UN Water Conference to COP28: Accelerating Water and Climate Action

As prepared

23 March 2023

NEW YORK, 23 March 2023 – "Excellencies, it is a pleasure to be with you here this morning, especially with the youth organizations represented here today.

"They have made the point that the global climate crisis is, at its heart, a child rights crisis.

"Children are the least responsible for climate change, yet they bear the greatest burden of its impacts. Globally, over 1 billion children – nearly half of the world’s children – live in countries at ‘extremely high risk’ from the impacts of climate change.

"And climate change is inextricably linked to water insecurity and environmental disasters – to which children are also disproportionately vulnerable.

"Around the world, 450 million children live in areas of high, or extremely high, water vulnerability. This means they are at risk of experiencing water scarcity and poor service provision.

"Meanwhile, extreme weather events and changes in water patterns make it more difficult for millions of children to access safe drinking water.

"When these disasters strike, they can destroy or contaminate water and sanitation systems, increasing the risk of disease outbreaks. Each day, more than 700 children under age 5 die from diarrhoeal diseases due to a lack of appropriate WASH services.

"Climate action is a priority for UNICEF. Together with our partners, we are working to make the system that children rely on – including water and sanitation – more resilient. We are also helping communities to develop climate mitigation strategies.

"We are calling on leaders at COP28 to recognize children as a priority vulnerable population and to protect them from the worst impact of the climate crisis by providing resilient essential services. It is also critical that COP28 delivers on the commitment to double adaptation finance by 2025 – with a focus on services for children and communities.

"Excellencies, the decisions we make and the actions we take are shaping the world our children will live in. About 4.2 billion children are expected to be born over the next 30 years. It is up to us and the actions we take to determine what kind of world they will inherit."


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UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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