Extreme weather-related disasters displacing millions of children across globe


New Delhi: On top of violence and poverty, climate-related disasters are displacing millions of children across the world, impacting their whole life ahead.

While movement from the site of disaster may save their lives, the worry of whether they will ever return to their homes and resume scho0ling and other normal activities is highly disruptive for the lives of these children.

A UNICEF report released this week says that between 2016 and 2021, floods, storms, droughts and wildfires led to 43.1 million internal displacements of children in 44 countries – or approximately 20,000 child displacements a day. .

The highest numbers of children were displaced in China and the Philippines among other countries due to their exposure to extreme weather, large child populations and progress made on early warning and evacuation capacities, says the report titled ‘Children Displaced in a Changing Climate.’

The displacement is more devastating in countries already grappling with  crises, such as conflict and poverty, where local capacities to cope with any additional displacements of children.

The report gave the example of  Haiti which is  already at high risk of disaster-related child displacement. The situation in this country is made worse by  violence and poverty, with limited investment in risk mitigation and preparedness. While in Mozambique, it is the poorest communities, including those in urban areas, that are disproportionately affected by extreme weather. These are the countries – where the number of vulnerable children at risk of future displacement is the greatest and coping capacities and financing is limited – where risk mitigation, adaptation, preparedness efforts and financing are most urgent.

According to the report, floods and storms accounted for 40.9 million – or 95 per cent – of recorded child displacements between 2016 and 2021, due in part to better reporting and more pre-emptive evacuations. Meanwhile, droughts triggered more than 1.3 million internal displacements of children – with Somalia again among the most affected, while wildfires triggered 810,000 child displacements, with more than a third occurring in 2020 alone. Canada, Israel and the United States recorded the most.

“It is terrifying for any child when a ferocious wildfire, storm or flood barrels into their community,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “For those who are forced to flee, the fear and impact can be especially devastating, with worry of whether they will return home, resume school, or be forced to move again. Moving may have saved their lives, but it’s also very disruptive. As the impacts of climate change escalate, so too will climate-driven movement. We have the tools and knowledge to respond to this escalating challenge for children, but we are acting far too slowly. We need to strengthen efforts to prepare communities, protect children at risk of displacement, and support those already uprooted.”

The UNICEF study has also made some future projections according to which floods have the potential to displace almost 96 million children over the next 30 years, while cyclonic winds and storm have the potential to displace 10.3 million and 7.2 million children respectively, over the same period. With more frequent and more severe weather events as consequence of changing climate, the actual numbers will almost certainly be higher.


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