Wednesday, February 20, 2019 | ePaper

Impact of climate change on children

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Md. Sazedul Islam :
Climate change is proved to be one of the greatest development challenges for the world now and Bangladesh is one of the most disaster affected countries in the world. According to the Department of Disaster Management, the major disasters for Bangladesh are flood, cyclone, drought, tidal surge, tornado, earthquake, river erosion, fire, infrastructural collapse, high arsenic contamination of ground water, water logging, water and soil salinity, epidemic and various forms of pollution, which happen very often. Due to all these people of the country are severely affected.
According to a report of UNICEF Bangladesh 2016, about 40% of the populations in Bangladesh are the children of different ages who are hugely vulnerable to climate change. In every crisis, children are the most vulnerable and climate change is no exception. Unaddressed climate change will harm the poorest and children first, hardest and longest. The types of climate risks children confront here diverse range of impacts with direct physical impacts.  
For example, cyclone, storm surge and extreme temperature put impacts on their education, causes psychological stress and nutritional challenges. Cyclone, flood, sea level rise, tidal surge and river erosion are damaging and destroying our infrastructures which are critical for the wellbeing of the children and thus hamper their schooling, hygiene and transportation facilities.
Flood, increase of salinity and drought are destroying our crops and trees, disrupting water systems and contaminating water resources, reducing children's access to safe water and nutritious food. Land loss from flooding and river erosion, dwindle water supplies and lose and shift livelihoods which are increasing migration and thus disrupting families and increasing much vulnerability for the displaced children.
Rising temperature and changing of rainfall patterns are exacerbating the spread of vector-borne diseases such as dengue, which disproportionately affects the children most. Under-nutrition and diarrhoeal diseases can very easily lead to severe and often dire consequences among children. Children are most at risk of health impacts due to climate change. Water-borne diseases are becoming more prevalent after flood, cyclone and drought. The availability of safe drinking water is undermined due to climate change.
Increasing death and hospital admissions of children are reported during extreme heat and extreme cold. Children are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate variability and change because they are physiologically and metabolically less able than the adults in adapting to heat and other climate-related exposures. Their still-evolving development puts them at higher risk to diseases and other complications due to lower functional immunity.
Malnutrition linked to extreme weather events may be one of the most challenging consequences of climate change. Half of the projected deaths from climate change induced food insecurity are expected to be children in lower income.
Agricultural yields and food security are being undermined due to climate change like changing rainfall patterns, increasing temperatures, unreliability of seasonal patterns and extreme weather events. Climate change not only affects agricultural productivity, but also the nutritional content of the crops that grow.
Children are also more likely than adults to be killed or injured during disasters. Of those affected or killed as a result of disasters globally, half of them are children. Climate change is eroding rural livelihoods, placing children at increased risk of child labour, child marriage and trafficking. As families struggle to cope with less predictable seasons and more frequent harvest failures, children suffer the most and hardest.      
Disaster puts worse impact on a child who already is living in poverty or without adequate water and sanitation facility and disaster like flood, cyclone, drought which now-a-days occur more frequently than the past. During disaster education of the children is disrupted and health undermined.
Children are at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse during and after disasters. Therefore tackling climate change and its impacts on children is an imperative for maintaining equity which reducing inequity between children to promote their future resilience to climate change and disasters is a must.   
Educated population is vital for adapting to climate change now and for future. Investing in children's education is vital for Bangladesh to thrive in a changing climate. Today's children in Bangladesh will need skills and knowledge to adapt to the unfolding impacts of climate change.
With an aim to reducing the risks of climate change related problems, all the SAARC member states, including Bangladesh, have adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction at the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March 2015.
The Framework provides guidance to the member countries on a coherent approach to anticipate and address concerns of disaster risk as they put impact upon children across the region. The Framework stresses on child-centre risk assessments as the basis for designing and implementing all sectoral and cross-sectoral programmes and ensure child protection in DRR activities.
In line with this Bangladesh along with other SAARC countries affirm their commitment to the children upon the key areas of child development. This aims to protect them from the high risks from natural hazards and the mounting impacts of climate change.
Ministry of Women and Children Affairs with affiliated departments is now working on Child development issues with more importance.
Fifteen ministries of Bangladesh and their line agencies are involved in child and in-depth development and protection, implementing DRR and climate change adaptation. Of them, eight key ministries and departments are hugely engaged in child protection, DRR, risks assessment, school safety, food and nutrition and social protection.
Our all out concern, sincere initiative and in-depth effort can protect our children from the impacts of climate change.    
(The author is a journalist).

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