49 per cent of youth in South Africa reconsidering starting a family due to climate concerns – UNICEF poll

U-Report poll highlights concerns about the immediate and longer-term impact of climate and environment related events on young people’s lives.

09 November 2022

PRETORIA, 09 November 2022 – Nearly half of young people in South Africa stated that concerns about climate change impacts have made them reconsider starting a family, according to a new UNICEF South Africa U-Report poll, released as youth take the floor to call for climate action at COP27.

The latest youth pulse also highlighted that 61 per cent of respondents have thought about moving to another area in South Africa to avoid the potential impact of floods, drought, air, or water pollution. This aligns with the 64 per cent of young people who stated that they have already been directly affected by a climate or environment related event.

“The climate crisis is a child rights crisis and it’s changing the behaviours and mindsets of children and young people,” said Christine Muhigana, UNICEF South Africa Representative.

“This poll shows that young people’s futures are at stake but there is still much that can be done to mitigate the impact of and adapt to climate change. Children and young people must be at the center of decisions and actions moving forward and finances committed to protect the essential services that children rely on,” added Muhigana.

Flooding, air pollution and drought were the top issues raised by young people who were affected by a climate or environment related event. Some 25 per cent highlighted that their home was damaged, 13 per cent had limited access to safe water and 11 per cent noted that crops were destroyed as the primary impacts.

The majority polled also believed that the COP26 climate talks last year had a positive impact, which could relate to the announcement of the ‘Just Energy Transition Partnership’ as a critical step forward to support South Africa’s move to a low carbon, climate resilient society that promotes employment and livelihoods.

Encouragingly the South African Government delegation to COP27 includes five youth delegates. They will host an event on ‘Stories of Policy Participation, Activism and Social Media’ supported by UNICEF South Africa and Youth@SAIIA at the SA Pavilion in Sharm El Sheikh on 10 November.

UNICEF South Africa is also working with Youth@SAIIA and other partners to launch a new Youth Agency Marketplace (YOMA) Challenge #GoGreenSA calling for children and youth to highlight how they can spark change though a one-minute video on climate change actions. The top five entries aligned with South Africa’s Youth Climate Action Plan will receive seed money to further develop their ideas. The action plan includes five pillars: environmental sustainability; systemic transformation; good governance; advocacy and activism; and intersectionality.

To strive towards a healthier climate, environment and future for every child, UNICEF South Africa is calling to:  

  • Protect the health, safety, learning and opportunities of every child by adapting the critical social services children rely on - water and sanitation (WASH), health, education, nutrition, social protection and child protection - so they are resilient to the immediate and expected impacts of climate change at a local and national level.   
  • Prepare children and young people to live in a climate-changed country; ensuring their voices are heard and acted on at a national and local level, and their education and skills are enhanced so they can participate in creating a sustainable future, including through the green economy.  
  • Prioritize children and young people in climate funding and resources, strengthening adaptation and resilience building to save and protect lives. 
Notes to editors:
The climate poll was conducted through UNICEF South Africa’s U-Report platform and received some 3,600 responses, with 75 per cent of those from young people aged up to 30-years.
U-Report is a platform to encourage youth participation and helps young people to have a voice on issues that matter to them and to access information, tools and resources to influence positive social change.
The Youth Climate Action Plan was developed by young people with the support of Youth@SAIIA.
The COP27 Youth Climate Statement was drafted by young people and the process convened by Youth@SAIIA, the Youth Policy Committee (YPC), CAAP co-founded by the European Union, and WESSA, with the support of UNICEF South Africa, UNDP South Africa, and the Embassy of Finland to South Africa.

Media contacts

Toby Fricker
Chief of Communication & Partnerships
UNICEF South Africa
Tel: +27 61 418 7486
Sudeshan Reddy
Communication Specialist
UNICEF South Africa
Tel: +27 82 561 3970


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.

Follow UNICEF South Africa on TwitterFacebookInstagramYouTube and LinkedIn