Climate Change: Who Will Save the African Child?

The numbers are out, and they are scary. They should get everyone in the world scared of what the future holds. The future is not secure, no thanks to climate change, but the situation can be improved if all hands are on deck, particularly the powerful nations of the world and the biggest and richest companies. 

According to a new report released by UNICEF on Friday, African children are at the risk of being affected the worst by climate change, and sadly, there’s no saviour in sight at the moment.

The report titled “The Climate Crisis Is A Child Rights Crisis: Introducing The Children’s Climate Risk Index” is an analysis of the risk of climate change from a child right’s perspective. It ranked countries based on the level of their exposure to climate-related hazards including heat waves, flooding, cyclones and also measures their ability to respond adequately to these situations. 

Collaborating with “Fridays for Future”, a youth-led global movement against climate change, the report comprehensively details the risks a climate crisis puts children in. 

Climate Crisis also reveals how climate change affects the children’s education, health, and exposes them to life-threatening diseases and conditions. 

The African Child: At High Risk

Of all 163 nations covered in the report and analysis, children in Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Chad and the Central African Republic stand the greatest risk of being affected by climate change.

Children in these countries face extreme temperatures, and other hazards that have led to drought and poor food production, and these in turn lead to starvation, exposure to diseases and poor health conditions.

Almost every child in the world faces at least a climatic or environmental danger but there’s an overlap of hazards for many African children. These overlapping hazards threaten the development recorded in these countries and further expose the children to situations they or their countries can hardly control.

Photo: UNICEF

The Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI) places figures on the hazards in the world with vector-borne diseases, lead pollution, heat waves, water scarcity and exceedingly dangerous levels of air pollution affecting children the most. All these dangers resulting from climate change affect African children greatly. 

There are more than 600 million children in the world at risk of being infected by a vector-borne disease, including malaria and dengue fever. Many African countries are yet to totally solve the problem of the presence of mosquitoes and at least 1,500 African children die everyday from malaria. 

Lead pollution from industries also affect 815 million children in the world with those closest to big factories suffering a high level of lead poisoning. Many Nigerian children, especially those who live close to mining locations, die of lead poisoning every year. This is also the situation in many industrial African countries.

Heat waves, which have become extreme recently, has also affected food production in Africa, with a food crisis recorded in many countries already, including Nigeria, Madagascar and South Sudan, where young children are getting more malnourished, stand the risk of exposure to diseases and death.

Children and families in Guinea are facing high level of water scarcity and are part of the 920 million kids in the world facing scarcity of life’s most important substance. 

One in seven children in the world also faces extremely dangerous level of air pollution with majority being in Africa and the Middle-East. Of all, there are at least 330 million children in the world affected by at least five of these major shocks. 

An Inequitable Crisis: Never Those Kids’ Fault 

The thirty-three countries in the world where children face extreme levels of climate change hazards produce just 9% of the global CO-2 emission. The 10 countries with the highest level of CO2 emissions account for 70% of the world’s new big enemy. Many African countries don’t produce a great amount of CO2 (none in the top 20) but African children are affected the most by an angrily-reacting atmosphere. 

Where the Greenhouse effects are greatest have a cushion to manage their extremes, but the poor African child- without a good government or a future-protecting programme suffers the consequences of those actions. 

“Climate change is deeply inequitable,” Henrietta Fore, a UNICEF Executive Director said. “While no child is responsible for rising global temperatures, they will pay the highest costs.”

The world agrees that climate change needs to be nipped in the bud, and the future protected with a general consensus reached on placing global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. By 2050, the world also hopes not to have carbon emissions but if the practices of the big companies of the world are anything to go by, that may be a long haul. 

African children face the worst, and the greatest risks of their geographical existence. With governance always suspect, and their futures hardly a priority, they now face the risk of dying due to the practices of people in other countries and other continents. 

The world needs to be just, for once, to ensure that the hundreds of millions of kids affected in the world are protected. They deserve a future. 




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