UNICEF warns of overwhelming impacts of floods on children in 2022

This is a summary of what was said by the head of the UNICEF delegation for COP27, Paloma Escudero, to whom quoted text may be attributed - at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

08 November 2022
On 3 November 2022 in Jacobabad, Sindh province, Pakistan, 15-year-old Sugra collects water. Her home was destroyed in the recent floods in one of the worst-affected areas.
UNICEF/UN0730544/Bashir
On 3 November 2022 in Jacobabad, Sindh province, Pakistan, 15-year-old Sugrah collects water. Her home was destroyed in the recent floods in one of the worst-affected areas.

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt/GENEVA, 10 November 2022 - “Good morning from the COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh. UNICEF is here working with youth climate activists from around the world to spotlight the impact of the climate crisis on the poorest children.

“According to a UNICEF analysis released today, 27.7 million children in 27 countries have been impacted by flooding so far this year, just in 2022 and counting.

“In Chad, the Gambia and north-east Bangladesh the worst floods in a generation were recorded this year. For Pakistan, the floods were the worst on record.

“These rolling disasters are straining the ability of governments and the international community to respond at the enormous scale needed. And placing millions of children as we speak today at severe risk of starvation, disease, exploitation and death.

“I saw this myself last week when I was in Pakistan visiting the worst-affected areas. There, 11 million children are in need of immediate assistance.

“In Larkana, I met a 15-year-old girl called Sugrah, who showed me the rubble of her beloved home. Two months earlier, as floodwater seeped into her house, the roof above her began to collapse.

“Terrified, she grabbed her younger brothers and sisters and fled to a nearby bypass, where they lived for weeks in a makeshift tent made of plastic bags and sticks.

“But Sugrah was lucky. In a village where the flood water reached 5 feet, or 1.5 meters, villagers told us that not all the children who tried to flee made it.

“Now consider Sugrah’s story, but multiply it by the highest factor.

“In the weeks since the unprecedented floods devastated Pakistan, the emergency has become a multi-headed monster.

“Pakistan’s worst floods in 100 years have killed at least 615 children and left 10 million girls and boys needing immediate, lifesaving support.

“The floods have contaminated drinking water, which is spawning deadly water-borne diseases such as acute watery diarrhea, which compounds already acute malnutrition. Estimates suggest close to 1.6 million children in flood areas could be suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

“The stagnant water is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, increasing the risk of malaria and dengue. There are crises on top of crises.

“Without urgent action, many more vulnerable children and young people will lose their lives in the days and weeks to come. And without climate action, hundreds of millions more will almost certainly suffer like those in Pakistan.

“We are reaching final warnings. Right now Pakistan is drowning in the world’s inaction.

“One of the most important but heartbreaking things about climate change is that its most horrific impacts are often reserved for those who are least responsible for creating the problem.

“International climate scientists found the recent Pakistan floods were made worse by climate change, and predicted the intensity of the country’s rainfall will “significantly” increase as the planet continues to warm. Pakistan is on the frontlines of the climate crisis but its contribution to global emissions is less than 1 per cent.

“In Africa, just like in Pakistan, children are paying the price for a climate disaster not of their making. 

“From the extreme drought and risk of famine in Somalia to the erratic rains across the Sahel, UNICEF is being challenged to respond at an unprecedented scale to emergencies that have all the markings of climate-induced disasters.

“So, today, from the floor of COP27, UNICEF challenges world leaders to also respond at an unprecedented scale.

“PREVENTING - governments and big business must prevent a climate catastrophe by rapidly reducing emissions.

“PROTECTING - UNICEF urges leaders to take immediate action to protect children from climate devastation by adapting the critical social services they rely on.

“PREPARING – prepare children for the changing world by educating them on climate change, teaching them how to respond to disasters and equipping them with green skills for future jobs.

“PRIORITISING - Last year, developed countries agreed to double support for adaptation to $40 billion a year by 2025. At COP27, they must present a credible roadmap with clear milestones on how this will be funded, as a step to delivering at least $300bn per year for adaptation by 2030. At least half of all climate finance should flow towards adaptation and children should be prioritised in these decisions.

“And, let us remember, communities can only adapt to so much. UNICEF also urges world leaders to agree immediate funding for the children who are facing, and will face, irreversible climate losses and damages. Governments must close the finance gap for addressing loss and damage at COP27.

“Decisions about climate change – including in these halls – need to be inclusive, especially of young people from the most-affected places. But let’s also be clear: We don’t need young people to keep raising the alarm; we need people with power to start acting.

“Alternatively, if discussions continue to dominate over deeds, then the catastrophe for the children of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chad, Nigeria and so many others, will be nothing compared to what is to come."

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