Over 27 million children at risk as devastating floods set records across the world

Number of children affected by flooding in Chad, Gambia, Pakistan and north-east Bangladesh highest in over 30 years

08 November 2022
U-Reporters carrying children in the middle of the floods
UNICEF/UN0724693/Banyo

SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt/GENEVA/NEW YORK, 8 November 2022 - As COP27 gets underway in Egypt, UNICEF warns this year has brought overwhelming flooding to at least 27.7 million children in 27 countries worldwide.

A large majority of the 27.7 million children* affected by flooding in 2022 are among the most vulnerable and are at high risk of a multitude of threats including death by drowning, disease outbreaks, lack of safe drinking water, malnutrition, disruption in learning, and violence.

“We are seeing unprecedented levels of flooding all around the world this year, and with it, an explosion in threats to children,” said Paloma Escudero, head of the UNICEF delegation for COP27. “The climate crisis is here. In many places, the flooding is the worst it has been in a generation, or several. Our children are already suffering at a scale their parents never did.”

The aftermath of floods is often more deadly for children than the extreme weather events that caused the flooding. In 2022, floods have contributed to the increased spread of major killers of children, such as malnutrition, malaria, cholera and diarrhea:

  • In Pakistan, more than 1 in 9 children under five admitted to health facilities in flood-affected areas of Sindh and Balochistan were found to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
  • In Chad, 465,030 hectares of farmland were destroyed, worsening the already dire food insecurity situation.
  • In Malawi, torrential rains and flooding by tropical storm Ana in January 2022 caused extensive damage to water and sanitation systems, which created the perfect conditions for a cholera outbreak. The outbreak has claimed the lives of 203 people, out of which 28 are children. To date, 1,631 children have been infected with cholera.
  • Together with other climate shocks and conflict, floods have caused the projected number of children in South Sudan facing high levels of food insecurity to surpass the rates seen during the conflict in 2013 and 2016. Additionally, the United Nations recently warned that some communities are likely to face starvation if humanitarian assistance is not sustained and climate adaptation measures are not scaled-up.

In addition to threatening the lives of millions of children, the flood waters have disrupted essential services and displaced countless families: 

  • The recent floods in Pakistan damaged or destroyed nearly 27,000 school buildings, forcing 2 million children to miss school.
  • In South Sudan, 95 UNICEF supported nutrition sites have been affected by floods, hampering the delivery of life-saving and preventative malnutrition services for 92,000 children.
  • An estimated 840,000 children were displaced by floods in Nigeria in recent months.
  • 126 schools in Cameroon were affected by floods, depriving 38,000 children from access to education. 
  • Heavy rains and flooding in Yemen triggered floods causing extensive damage to shelters in displacement sites. Up to 73,854 households were affected, and 24,000 households were displaced.

“COP27 provides an opportunity to chart a credible roadmap with clear milestones for finance for climate adaptation and solutions for loss and damage,” said Paloma Escudero. “Young people from the most affected places on Earth are drowning in climate inaction. Enough is enough. Lives are on the line – children need action now.”

As well as pressing governments and big business to rapidly reduce emissions, UNICEF urges leaders to take immediate action to protect children from climate devastation by adapting the critical social services they rely on. Adaptation measures, like creating water, health and education systems that stand up to flooding and drought, will save lives.

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 delivered, 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.

UNICEF also urges parties to find solutions to support those who will face climate losses and damages beyond the limits of what communities can adapt to. UNICEF is calling on governments to close the finance gap for addressing these irreversible changes for children.

AT COP27, UNICEF CALLS ON ALL PARTIES TO:

  1. PREVENT. Revisit their national climate plans to cut emissions drastically and urgently to prevent a climate catastrophe.
  2. PROTECT. Secure clear action on adaptation that protects every child from the accelerating impacts of climate change through the Global Stocktake and Global Goal on Adaptation
  3. PREPARE. Advance climate change education and meaningful participation to prepare children and youth through the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) Action Plan
  4. PRIORITIZE. children and youth by accelerating climate finance investment in climate-resilient social services that reach the most at-risk children, and unlock progress on loss and damage
  5. Commit to child-sensitive climate action by aligning with and operationalizing the Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action

UNICEF’s immediate humanitarian response to flood affected countries is wide-ranging across all sectors: health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), child protection, and education. A lack of funding, however, has hampered the response in many countries. For instance, the funding gap for the humanitarian response in Pakistan currently stands at 85 per cent.

UNICEF is working to strengthen resilience of communities and health infrastructure to withstand disaster-related hazards, and increasingly linking our work on humanitarian response and longer-term climate adaptation.

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Notes to editors:

* For this analysis, which is the first of its kind, UNICEF utilized official numbers collected by government emergency agencies or the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In some countries, disaggregated data for children affected by floods was available. In countries with no disaggregated data, UNICEF estimated the number of children affected by flooding by extrapolating the percentage of children in the national population.  

Media contacts

Diane Yameogo
UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Office
Tel: +221 77 332 4326

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in West and Central Africa, visit https://www.unicef.org/wca.

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