Picturing a future amid the climate crisis
Rohingya refugees are highly vulnerable to the devastating impacts of climate change. That doesn’t stop them dreaming.
The climate crisis is affecting children everywhere – their lives, their communities and their health. Bangladesh – densely populated and with mostly flat and low-lying terrain – is one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather, rising sea levels, and devastating floods.
One in three children in Bangladesh – nearly 20 million children – are already affected by the direct impacts of climate change. The dangers are magnified further for Rohingya refugees living in the refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar. Many of the almost half a million children in the camps live in flimsy bamboo and tarpaulin shelters perched on hilly terrain. Particularly during the torrential rains of the monsoon season, the sandy soil in the camps can turn to mud, bringing flooding and landslides even as powerful winds wreak havoc on already vulnerable families’ homes.
But despite the immense challenges of their climate-impacted world, Rohingya children continue to dream of a better future for themselves, their families, and their communities. Asked to draw what they want to do when they’re older, Rohingya children shared hopes that are familiar around the world – of growing up to become doctors and teachers.
It’s time for world leaders to take seriously their responsibility to act to protect vulnerable children like these facing climate chaos – and to give them a chance at securing the futures they’re dreaming of.
“I want to be a scientist, because they invent things to help people.”
“I want to be a teacher to help my family.”
“I want to be a teacher to share the knowledge I’m getting here.”
“I want to be a religious scholar. And a doctor. And an engineer!”
“I want to be a teacher and I want to travel.”
“I want to be a teacher.”
“I want to teach English and Burmese.”
“I want to be a doctor. I’ll manage to somehow.”
Climate change is changing children everywhere
The climate crisis is not just changing the planet, it is changing children. Children’s bodies and minds are uniquely vulnerable to pollution, deadly diseases and extreme weather, and they are disproportionately affected by the impacts of disasters, environmental degradation and the climate crisis.
Children are not simply inheritors of our inaction — they are living the consequences today. Efforts to sustain a liveable planet must not only account for the unique needs and vulnerabilities of young people; they must also include them in the solutions. Children and young people have critical skills, experiences and ideas for safer, more sustainable societies.
More about the Rohingya crisis
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugee children have spent six years in exile from their home country after fleeing violence in Myanmar. Many of them have been born into this limbo. UNICEF has been on the ground in the refugee camps in Bangladesh from day one. And we are still there, working with partners for every Rohingya refugee child who needs clean water, health care, protection, nutritious food and education.