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Amina* (27, background) and her family are impacted by the drought in Somalia and receive support from Save the Children's water trucking project. *Name has been changed. Credit: Sacha Myers / Save the Children

CLIMATE CRISIS: 710 Million Children Live in Countries at High Risk

Save the Children warns that drastic action is needed to ensure children and their families can cope with current and future climate shocks

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (April 18, 2021)—An estimated 710 million childreni live in the 45 countries that are at the highest risk of suffering the impact of climate change, Save the Children warned today. Floods, droughts, hurricanes and other extreme weather events will have an especially deep impact on vulnerable children and their families.  

Children in these countries will, for example, be impacted by food shortages, diseases and other health threats, water scarcity, or be at risk from rising water levels—or a combination of these factors.

An analysis by Save the Children of ND-Gain dataii shows that globally, hundreds of millions of children under the age of 18 are living in regions where climate change is deeply affecting their lives. The impact of the crisis on food production is likely to lead to local food scarcity and price hikes, Save the Children said, with devastating impacts on the poorest households.

Save the Children warned that drastic action must be taken to ensure children and their families will be able to cope with current and future climate shocks.

The window to prevent catastrophic climate change is rapidly closing as the crisis is set to worseniii unless urgent action is taken now, Save the Children said. As children’s present and future are at stake, they must be heard in the climate crisis–conversation and should be involved in shaping policies, the organization urged.

“What I really can't forget is that I saw many houses falling because of too much rain and strong winds. I got scared,” 14-year-old Baptista* in Mozambique told Save the Children. He and his three siblings have struggled to recover ever since Cyclone Kenneth struck their town in 2019.

“I don't know why all that rain fell and there was a gale wind. I didn't like that because afterwards we were left homeless and without food.”

As U.S. President Joe Biden holds a Leaders Summit on Climate starting on Earth Day (April 22), Save the Children urged that children, including the most marginalized and deprived who suffer first and worst, must be heard alongside world leaders who are joining the summit.

Analysis by Save the Children also shows that:

  • 70 percent of countries facing a high risk of climate impact are in Africa;
  • Climate change impacts are worsening the already dire situation in Yemen, where conflict has created severe food shortages, leaving millions of children at risk of hunger;
  • Children in Bangladesh are highly exposed to flooding, cyclones, and sea level rise;
  • Malaria and dengue fever already plague children in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Increasing extreme weather events can lead to new health risks while the health system is already limited.

While all children are impacted by climate change, those living in poverty, conflict or hunger, or in disaster-prone areas will suffer most as they often are already deprived of their basic needs. Children in countries deemed at a “lower risk” are facing threats as well, for example from forest fires, flooding, droughts and other erratic weather events.

If drastic action is not taken, the impact of the climate crisis will likely hit millions more children in decades to come, the organization warned. Increasing climate shocks often make it a struggle for families to recover between each shock, especially in countries that lack social safety nets, pushing them further into poverty or forcing them to flee their homes.

“The climate crisis is the largest threat to children and the realization of their rights across borders and generations. The COVID-19 outbreak has already pushed millions of children and families into poverty and increased hunger and malnutrition. But flooding, hurricanes and droughts are also causing children to be malnourished,” said Janti Soeripto, CEO of Save the Children.

“Children have contributed the least to the crisis we are facing, but will pay the highest price. We have seen the power of children, leading the way on climate change through a truly global movement. But much more must be done—children need to be listened to and governments need to take action on what children tell them. Governments need to set up child-friendly mechanisms and platforms on- and off-line to include children’s recommendations in climate policies, including the most vulnerable children.”

Ahead of the Climate Summit on Earth Day, Save the Children urges all governments to take immediate and drastic action to address climate injustice head on and avoid further catastrophic impacts on children and their families. This includes:

  • Acknowledging that the climate crisis is a child rights crisis that affects children first and worst.
  • Increase climate finance, particularly for adaptation, with a specific focus on children in poorer countries, given as grants.
  • Ensure a focus on children, especially from the most marginalized communities, at upcoming climate events such as the Youth Summit in Milan and the COP26 in Glasgow later this year. Children are equal stakeholders in addressing climate change, and their recommendations must be included in all climate-related policies;
  • Scale up adaptive and shock-responsive social protection systems—such as grants for pregnant mothers and children—to address the increasing impacts of climate change on children and their families. More countries need to work towards their commitment in the Convention on the Rights of the Child to ensure every child is protected from poverty, for example by providing universal child benefits to improve children’s well-being and build resilience. 

*Names changed to protect children’s identities

[i] Children of 0-17 years of age
[ii] Notre Dame GAIN
[iii] Climate risks are based upon the intermediate scenario of RCP 4.5

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. Since our founding more than 100 years ago, we've been advocating for the rights of children worldwide. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming the future we share. Our results, financial statements and charity ratings reaffirm that Save the Children is a charity you can trust. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.