Children in Africa are exceptionally vulnerable to climate change but are “woefully” ignored by those responsible for funding the fight against the crisis, the United Nations said Friday.
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Africa – a continent of 1.2 billion people – is home to some of the countries least responsible for carbon emissions but is hit disproportionately hard by droughts, flooding, storms and heatwaves.
Children in 48 of the 49 countries assessed are at “high or extremely high risk” of climate shocks, the UN childrens’ agency UNICEF said in a report titled “Time to Act”.
“It is clear that the youngest members of African society are bearing the brunt of the harsh effects of climate change,” said Lieke van de Wiel, UNICEF deputy director for eastern and southern Africa.
“They are the least able to cope, due to physiological vulnerability and poor access to essential social services.”
Furthermore, they “are woefully neglected by the key climate financing flows required to help them adapt, survive and respond to the climate crisis,” UNICEF said.
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Children living in Nigeria, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Chad, the Central African Republic and war-weary Somalia are at most risk, it said.
A key concern is exposure to diseases as the children face a “deadly combination of intensified exposure to multiple and increasingly severe shocks”.
The UN agency said that less than three percent of global funding to tackle climate change was directed at children, and called for more to be done, especially by the private sector.
“We need to see a stronger focusing of funding towards this group, so they are equipped to face a lifetime of climate-induced disruptions,” said van de Wiel.
The UNICEF report was published days before the first ever Africa Climate Summit in the Kenyan capital Nairobi next week.
The conference is designed to showcase Africa as a potential powerhouse for green energy, in the first of a flurry of big meetings ahead of crunch UN talks.
With the world far adrift of its goal of slashing carbon emissions and communities battered by extreme weather events, the November climate summit in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates will be dominated by clashing visions for energy.
The climate conference opens on Monday and is due to wrap up on Wednesday.