A startling revelation emerged this Friday when the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced that in the span of just six years, weather-induced disasters have led to the displacement of a mammoth 43.1 million children across 44 countries. To put the magnitude of this crisis in perspective, that’s a staggering 20,000 children uprooted every single day.
Contained in the study, Children Displaced in a Changing Climate, UNICEF’s report is the inaugural global analysis scrutinizing child displacements due to floods, storms, droughts, and wildfires. The data doesn’t stop at just providing a retrospective; it also sheds light on potential displacement trends for the coming three decades.
UNICEF’s top executive, Catherine Russell, was forthright in highlighting the severity of the issue. “Imagine the sheer horror a child faces when calamities like wildfires or floods destroy their homes. The ordeal doesn’t just end with the event; the aftermath is often marked by uncertainty about returning home, continuing education, or facing another evacuation. As climate change continues its rampage, these instances will only proliferate,” stated Russell.
The report identifies China and the Philippines as the most affected in sheer numbers, a result of their extensive child populations, vulnerability to extreme weather, and efficient early-warning and evacuation systems. However, when analyzing the displacement ratio against the child population, island nations like Dominica and Vanuatu emerge as the most impacted by weather extremities. On the African continent, Somalia and South Sudan have notably suffered due to flood-induced displacements.
Haiti’s situation is doubly concerning. Apart from being a hotspot for disaster-induced child displacements, the country is grappling with violence and poverty. Similarly, in Mozambique, the brunt of weather adversities predominantly affects the nation’s poorest. A breakdown of the 2016-2021 data reveals that an overwhelming 95% (40.9 million) of these displacements were due to floods and storms. Better reporting and strategic evacuations could explain these high numbers. Meanwhile, droughts instigated the internal displacement of over 1.3 million children, and wildfires accounted for 810,000, notably in nations like Canada, Israel, and the US.
As the world anticipates the COP28 climate conference in November, UNICEF’s call to action is clear: governments, businesses, and stakeholders must prioritize and protect children from the harrowing consequences of our changing climate. Echoing this sentiment, Russell remarked, “We possess the means and insight to counter this burgeoning crisis for our children. Yet, our response remains sluggish. It’s imperative to amplify efforts in community preparedness, safeguard children prone to displacement, and assist the ones already displaced.”