UNICEF’s Children Climate Risk Index places children from WCA as the most at risk
16 out of 24 countries of West and Central Africa are among the 30 countries with biggest climate change risk for children.
Children from 7 countries in the West and Central Africa region are in the top 10 of the most climate change affected children worldwide, with Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau occupying the top spots.
In the Sahel, temperature increases are projected to be 1.5 times higher than in the rest of the world (reaching 3-6° C). Sahelian countries were struck by severe droughts in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012, and devastating floods in 2020 and 2021. Overall, the climate in WCAR will be more erratic and thus unpredictable, challenging both preparedness (incl. Early Warning) and response to related disaster situations. Children are among the most vulnerable to climate change.
The climate crisis is a children crisis:
The combination of multi-sectoral child deprivations and climate hazards provide a dangerous cocktail to put children at the highest risk. Children in the region are deprived from essential services in all areas and see many of their rights enshrined in the Child Rights Convention denied, while the region is subject to multiple climate-related hazards and other shocks and stresses (armed violence, multidemics including COVID-19 and its socio-economic impact, and other hazards and disasters).
Children in WCAR represent only 11 per cent of the world child population but 1/3 of global under-five deaths, 1/3 of children unvaccinated with life-saving DTP3, 1/3 of out-of-school children (primary and lower secondary school age), and 1/5 of stunted children in the world (29 million). These structural poverty deficits are further jeopardized by increasing climate change impacts, undermining development progress for children in the region.
Meanwhile, even though children in WCA region are the most exposed to the impacts of climate change, related policies and programmes insufficiently take their legitimate needs and rights into account; they are hardly child-responsive.
Children vulnerability on climate change derives from:
Children are more vulnerable to adverse climate change impacts – e.g. , heat waves, drought, and water scarcity or flooding and related risks of cholera or vector-borne diseases - as they have not yet reached their full physical and cognitive potential.
Poverty and high population growth in the region (average 3 percent per year) undermine the capacity of governments to meet the legitimate needs of their populations, in particular children. Rapid unplanned urbanization including due to distress migration is another challenge, which increases water and climate related urban risks.
The region is also characterized by a general lack of funding for climate action (external and internal, and lack of fiscal space), Governance issues and low capacities to manage risks and disasters. This undermines a child’s right to live in an environment safe from (climate induced) disasters.
The burden of other shocks and stresses including wide-spread protracted humanitarian crises, armed violence, and epidemics, adds to overall vulnerability and exacerbated coping capacities.
Young people face high levels of youth un-/underemployment, lack of access to participation in and contribution to decisions that affect them, and social norms that undermine gender equality...
The other consequences of climate change and what is foreseen if no radical measures are taken:
Water scarcity, desertification and droughts, temperature rise that may trigger new conflict and forced migration, or increases in child labor, child marriages or trafficking. On the other hand, people are exposed to increased risk of flooding and loss of essential livelihoods and other assets (incl. washed away equipment and damaged infrastructure, as well as birth, health, and other school records). They also are at risk of depletion of fish stocks with its impact on livelihoods for fishing communities, but also of changes in disease prevalence and spread (vector-borne diseases, air pollution, dust, and sandstorms, increased risk and intensity of heavy winds) and finally sea level rise and coastal erosion.
But the region has incredible assets to overcome the foreseen disasters:
A young and vibrant population that has to be the agent of change: more than 230 million young people under the age of 24, a dynamic youth population that represents more than 60 per cent of its population. Youth needs to be supported to build their skills for new green technologies and become actors for green and resilient development and recovery after the COVID pandemic.
The region is rich in solar and hydraulic resources to capitalize upon for green initiatives (already UNICEF is using solar to power water pumps and manage vaccine cold chains, and support is needed to expand its work to solarize health centers and schools);
The lack of infrastructures may also offer a chance to move on directly to building a development not based on carbon, but green infrastructures in terms of energy for instance for green and resilient development.
UNICEF is calling on governments, businesses and relevant actors to:
- Increase investment in climate adaptation and resilience in key services for children. To protect children, communities and the most vulnerable from the worst impacts of the already changing climate, critical services must be adapted, including water, sanitation and hygiene systems, health and education services.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis, comprehensive and urgent action is required. Countries must cut their emissions by at least 45% (compared to 2010 levels) by 2030 to keep warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
- Provide children with climate education and greens skills, critical for their adaptation to and preparation for the effects of climate change. Children and young people will face the full devastating consequences of the climate crisis and water insecurity, yet they are the least responsible. We have a duty to all young people and future generations.
- Include young people in all national, regional and international climate negotiations and decisions, including at COP26. Children and young people must be included in all climate-related decision making.
- Ensure the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is green, low-carbon and inclusive, so that the capacity of future generations to address and respond to the climate crisis is not compromised
Children are the ones who will be most impacted by the crisis, and the ones who will suffer most from its consequences
The climate crisis is a child rights crisis presents the Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI), which uses data to generate new global evidence on how many children are currently exposed to climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses. A composite index, the CCRI brings together geographical data by analyzing 1.) exposure to climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses; and 2.) child vulnerability. The CCRI helps to understand and measure the likelihood of climate and environmental shocks or stresses leading to the erosion of development progress, the deepening of deprivation and/or humanitarian situations affecting children or vulnerable households and groups.