Weather-related disasters led to 43.1 million displacements of children over six years

This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF Global Lead on Migration and Displacement Verena Knaus – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

06 October 2023

GENEVA, 6 Oct 2023 – “A growing number of children are being forced from their homes by extreme weather events. To date, they have largely remained invisible. And too often unprotected.

“To shine a light on this highly vulnerable and growing number of children around the world, UNICEF has published this first-ever analysis to estimate the number of children among those displaced.

“The report finds that on average 20,000 children have been displaced by weather-related events every single day for the past six years.

“Or put differently, weather-related disasters like tropical storms, hurricanes, floods or wildfires caused more than 43 million displacements of children in 44 countries over just six years.

“Some children are displaced more than once and some never return home.

“The Children Displaced in a Changing Climate report finds floods and storms accounted for 95 per cent of the child displacements, due in part to better reporting and more pre-emptive evacuations.

“China and the Philippines are among the countries that recorded the highest absolute numbers of child displacements, due to their exposure to extreme weather, large child populations and progress made on early warning and evacuation capacities.

“However, when you examine the data relative to the size of the child population, children living in small island states, such as Dominica and Vanuatu, were most affected by storms.

“Children in Somalia and South Sudan were most affected by floods.

“Wildfires triggered 810,000 child displacements, with Canada, Israel and the United States recording the highest numbers.

“The climate crisis is bringing chaos to the lives of millions of children; and it’s getting worse by the day. Meanwhile, emissions continue to rise.

“But of course, not every child is equally vulnerable. A large part of whether a child survives a disaster, and how they experience displacement, depends on the early warning, evacuation and support systems their community or town has in place.

“It is in high-risk countries with vulnerable child populations - that risk mitigation, adaptation, preparedness efforts and financing are most urgent. While countries cannot change their exposure to typhoons or seasonal flooding – the right investments can go a long way in preparing and protecting children at risk.

“This is even more true as the impacts of climate change increase.

“The report’s analysis projects a truly terrifying future. Large scale displacements of children will likely become more frequent in the future. With every additional 1 degree of warming, the IPCC believes, the global risk of displacement by flooding could rise by 50 percent.

“And while some countries like the Philippines, India or Mozambique have made great strides strengthening early warning, evacuation, and recovery capacities, we are not prepared for this climate changed future. And the displacement of children is barely on the radar of the leaders due to meet in a matter of weeks at COP28 in Dubai!

“Governments must urgently PROTECT children and young people from the impacts of disasters and displacement by ensuring that child-critical services – like education and health – are shock-responsive.

“We need to PREPARE children and young people for a future already unravelling by improving their adaptive capacity and resilience and involving them meaningfully in solutions.

“And it is essential we PRIORITIZE children and young people – including those already uprooted from their homes – in disaster and climate action and finance. As we recognize the connection between climate change, disasters and human mobility – action must follow. 

“While we may have failed to act early enough on the causes of the climate crisis, there is no excuse now to do what is needed to prepare and mitigate its consequence for children. We know what to do and we know where the greatest number of children is at greatest risk.

Thank you.”

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