More than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high flood occurrence and 160 million in high drought zones, leaving them exposed to climate change impact, UNICEF has said.
Of the 530 million children in the flood-prone zones, some 300 million live in countries where more than half the population lives in poverty — on less than $3.10 a day, Xinhua cited the UNICEF report on Tuesday.
The climate change report pointed out that “of those living in high drought severity areas, 50 million are in countries where more than half the population lives in poverty”.
“The sheer numbers underline the urgency of acting now,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said.
“Today’s children are the least responsible for climate change, but they, and their children, are the ones who will live with its consequences. And, as is so often the case, disadvantaged communities face the gravest threat,” he said.
Climate change means more droughts, floods, heatwaves and other severe weather conditions.
These climate change events can cause death and devastation, and can also contribute to the increased spread of major killers of children, such as malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea, according to the report.
The vast majority of the children living in areas at extremely high risk of floods are in Asia, and the majority of those in areas at risk of drought are in Africa, said the report.
In the upcoming 21st UN climate change conference, known as COP21, world leaders gathering in Paris from November 30 to December 11 will seek to reach agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which is critical to limiting potentially catastrophic rises in temperature.
“We know what has to be done to prevent the devastation climate change can inflict. Failing to act would be unconscionable,” said Lake.
“We owe it to our children — and to the planet — to make the right decisions at COP21.”