• Wednesday, Aug 10, 2022
  • Last Update : 04:24 pm

OP-ED: Listen to the children

  • Published at 04:03 am August 10th, 2021
children climate change
They are the future we must protect BIGSTOCK

The future of more than 19 million children is at risk due to climate change in Bangladesh

Climate scientists are increasingly concerned that global heating will trigger tipping points in the Earth’s natural systems, which will lead to widespread and possibly irrevocable disaster, unless action is taken urgently.

The future of more than 19 million children is at risk of disasters linked to climate change in Bangladesh (UNICEF). The impacts are likely to be much more severe than most people realize. But today’s children and young people are aware of the need to protect the environment and the earth’s climate.

Nowadays, the young generation is dealing with significant climate change issues at the national and international stage. We are seeing around the world that we can take much more action at this stage. Every person should come to action right now; it is not too late and we can still make some changes. To do this, however, we need the voice of the next generation as well as their ability to listen and their willingness to take action on climate change.

Schooling is disrupted when disasters damage and destroy communication and educational infrastructure. In many locations in Bangladesh, these disruptions are frequent, happening multiple times every year. 26% of the annual 6.6 million deaths of children under five are linked to environment-related causes and conditions according to the WHO.

Furthermore, extreme weather events and declining rural livelihoods can increase risk of child labour for boys and child marriage for girls. Worldwide, more than 150 million children work to support their families. Child labour is a direct consequence of poverty, but the fact that it is closely linked to environmental degradation is a new facet of this problem (TDH Child Labour Report 2017).

In Bangladesh, children are at risk of violence, exploitation, and abuse during and after environmental disasters. As families struggle to cope with less predictable seasons and more frequent harvest failures, rural livelihoods erode, placing children at increased risk of child labour, child marriage, and trafficking.

Climatic change is also responsible for creating troublesome disease patterns. Waterborne diseases are more widespread after any climatic event. Globally, diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children, which results from floods and other extreme weather events.

The availability of safe drinking water is also undermined by climate change and weather-related disasters, leading to more health problems, and poor health and malnutrition in childhood undermines the development and lifelong prospects of these children.

As per the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 25 million more children will be malnourished by 2050 due to the effects of climate change. Malnutrition linked to extreme weather events may be one of the most challenging consequences of climate change.

An increase in the price of food, caused by extreme weather events, climate variability, or change, will disproportionately affect the poorest girls and boys in Bangladesh, with implications for other family expenditure on education, health, and other well-being factors.

Save the Children has been working on a child-centred climate change adaptation project since 2012 with funding by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), aiming to empower the children’s capability and understanding of climate change as they are the future leaders and will play an important role in the climate crisis.

There are some actions that can be conducted with the children, youths, and experts for developing climate resilient plans in the national and sub-national levels. These include:

  • Conducting research on suitable climate adaptation technology
  • Developing a child-centred climate smart community
  • Developing a monitoring system to feed into government planning cycles
  • Advocate for development of child-centered social protection measures as part of climate change adaptation strategies
  • Influence policies and practices to ensure continuity of health services for children and women during seasonal and chronic crises
  • Advocate for incorporation of nutritional requirements that meet the needs of the most vulnerable groups

Keeping in mind the unfolding climate calamity and the double burden due to Covid-19, it is imperative to devote greater attention and resources to keep children safe and ensure that child health, education, and other services are shielded from the effects of climate change.

Additionally, further investments should be made in green recovery programs for economic reconstruction, better health, and biodiversity conservation. The needs of children must be placed squarely at the centre of our response to those dangers -- before the most destructive effects of climate change are unleashed.

Save the Children International announced the “Red Alert” campaign which aims to enhance the voices of children and youth, who are among the primary victims of climate emergency and the future leaders in national policy, planning, and decision making process to respond to the climatic crisis in Bangladesh and beyond.

It is the start to engage children and youth-led advocacy to play an active role in the planetary emergency and provide some policy recommendations for both national and international platforms. Those holistic recommendations will be carried out by the national and international climate actors for the well-being of children and youth which will help to make better planetary recovery.

Climate change is the most signicant global crisis of the 21st century, and the children and youths from all over the world should be united to speak up and make their voices heard.

Md Mostak Hussain, Dr Nazmun Nahar Nur, and Muzammel Haque work in the Child Centred Climate Change Adaptation Project, Humanitarian Sector, Save the Children in Bangladesh.