In countries around the world, children are suffering and dying from malnutrition, disease, and poverty secondary to drought or flooding. Changes in climate create many risks to the lives of children and their families as they struggle to survive in areas where food is difficult to grow and workers are poorly paid. Due to the increase in temperature and extreme weather conditions brought on by climate change, many communities are expected to suffer scarcity of clean water with the result of perilous diseases and health complications. Disasters and humanitarian crises may bring long-term displacements and disruption to educational, health, and economic programs (UNICEF 8). Given this situation, the future of children on a worldwide scale appears in peril. Governments and other agencies concerned about the welfare of children must act to address climate change, or the children of the world will pay the price. Climate change refers to changes in the climate of the planet lasting for a long time, particularly increases in the average temperature of the atmosphere (Dictionary.com). It may manifest in such changes as air temperature, wind patterns, and precipitation that may last for decades. It is highly attributed to human activities because the carbon emissions of huge industries and agricultural practices contribute large amounts of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere (Epa.gov). Therefore, many children and families living in highly dense and agricultural communities are potentially at risk. The 2015 report of UNICEF reveals that millions of children live in extremely vulnerable zones; one-half billion children dwell in highly flooded communities while about 160 million children live in communities with high severity of drought (UNICEF 1). These numbers reflect a huge number of children susceptible to many risks such as destruction of schools, health facilities, and transportation, contamination, vector-borne and respiratory diseases, and food shortages. The study conducted by the World Health Organization and United Nations Environment Programme has found that a harmful environment is twice as dangerous to children than it is to adults because of their rapid physical development (WHO). Zhiwei et al (3298) have noted that the effects of climate change may result in greater risk of psychological problems, infectious and respiratory diseases and complications, and skin and allergic problems. UNICEF has reported that an estimated 25 million children may suffer from malnutrition, 100 million will suffer from hunger, about 150-200 million people will be displaced from their homes due to flooding and other extreme weather events, and millions of infants may likely die as a consequence of intense heat (UNICEF). A report from the World Health Organization states that climate change has resulted to the deaths of more than 150,000 children around the globe with the disability of some 5 million children in 2000 (WHO); approximately 88 percent of these numbers are children under the age of 5 years (McMichael & Butler as cited in Zhiwei 3299). In the coming decades, the slow onset of climate change may weaken development and limit the opportunities for family livelihoods. Inequities and poverty may worsen and might incapacitate families to adapt and cope with hardships. For children and their families living in impoverished and underdeveloped countries, access to clean and safe water, sanitation, and health care would become difficult. An estimated 900 people live in areas without adequate water supplies and 2.7 billion people are living without sufficient sanitation to maintain health (Rocha and Soares 4). In Brazil, research has reported that low levels of rainfall are associated with lower newborn birth weights, higher infant mortality, and shorter duration of pregnancies. There are approximately 200 million children globally who do not reach their development potentials because of extreme poverty and inequities (Bennett and Friel 462-463). Most of them can be found in developing countries that experience the extreme impacts of disasters and humanitarian crisis. Oxfam has also estimated an increase of 10 percent to 20 percent in the number of people who are at risk of hunger by 2020 (Harvey n.p.). These numbers will likely increase if the climate crisis is not addressed properly. The worldwide community is currently taking action to secure the future of children from climate change. More researchers push for mitigation activities such as carbon emission reduction and adaptation measures such as alternative livelihood and post-disaster health care (Zhiwei et al. 3308). On a global level, the United Nations promoted a framework as early as 1994 to tackle the issue of climate change. During the U.N. Convention on Climate Change in March 1994, member states recognized the prevailing problems in global warming and greenhouse gasses. They arrived at a goal that greenhouse emissions must be reduced by up to 2 degrees centigrade and measures must be taken such as planning and allocation of budgets for mitigation and adaptation measures (United Nations). UN agencies such as UNICEF have also commissioned studies to determine the impact of climate change on children and other vulnerable populations. Many countries have also launched campaigns to educate the public about climate change. Governments have initiated mitigation projects and subscribed to the UN Framework on Climate Change as part of their commitment to address climate change. However, much is left to be done. Zhiwei et al. propose continuous research on climate change and the impact on children must be done. The areas of focus include gender, age, socioeconomic status, vulnerability to climate change, children’s diseases under climate change scenarios, and efficient adaptation and mitigation activities from the child’s perspective (3308). UNICEF also calls for the prioritization of community-based and child-centered initiatives on adaptation and mitigation activities (18). Programs must be context-based and culturally sensitive to fully address the needs of children in various spectrums of development. Governments must also ensure the regulation of carbon emissions and be stringent on policies for environmental protection and preservation. More importantly, they must provide sufficient programs for livelihood, education, and food security to ensure that children and their families are prepared to adapt to changing climate. Resilience comes with economic and political changes. The future of children will remain in peril if there are no significant changes in the conditions that destroy the environment. Unless everyone does their share, children will pay the price of climate change.
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Harvey, Fiona. "Children Will Bear Brunt of Climate Change Impact, New Study Says". The Guardian. N.p., 2013. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.
Rocha, Rudi and Rodrigo R. Soares. "Water Scarcity and Birth Outcomes in the Brazilian Semiarid". Journal of Development Economics 112 (2015): 72-91. Web.
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