Esther, 17, a climate activist, stands outside her home in Zomba, Malawi. (Thoko Chikondi/Save the Children)
LONDON/GENEVA, October 6, 2022 – 83% of children in 15 countries say they witness climate change or inequality, or both, affecting the world around them, according to a major Save the Children survey released ahead of a series of critical meetings of world leaders.
A majority of children surveyed – 73% – also think adults should do more to address these issues, including governments, businesses and community leaders, many of whom will be attending the G20 and COP27 meetings.
The survey of over 42,000 children and young people in 15 countries, conducted by Save the Children between May and August this year, was part of a series of wider consultations involving more than 54,000 children in 41 countries. Throughout the consultations, children from all parts of the world shared their observations and experiences of changes in weather patterns and disasters, and explained in detail the damage and harm this is causing to their lives and to others. .
Krishna, 17 years old, lives in a slum on the outskirts of the city of Patna, in the state of Bihar, India. At 13, he became the leader of a group of young activists in his neighborhood who defend children’s rights. In August 2019, a devastating flood swept through her community, destroying residents’ homes and belongings and cutting them off from essential supplies for two days. Krishna said:
“The day the floods came, we all got soaked. The water suddenly came into the houses in the middle of the night while everyone was sleeping. For a week our houses were filled with flood waters, the school was also closed. We placed a stool above water level and prepared food on it. We also slept like that.
“We live in slums and don’t have brick and mortar roofs. We put a box on top instead. It is very hot under the sun, so hot air is circulated inside. Even with the fan on, it starts circulating hot air, which is why it gets very hot. During the winters, we are very cold.
Some children described how their experiences sparked feelings of anger over inaction and fears for the future, speaking poignantly about the impacts on their mental health. Many were adamant that change is not only necessary, but possible.
In Africa and the Middle East, children have made connections between climate change and increased hunger, especially its effects on agriculture. Children in countries that have been particularly hard hit by the current global hunger crisis are seeing and experiencing things they should never have to experience, including deaths during crises, suicide, child labor and child marriage. children. Children from all regions referenced the rising cost of food and living, with some associating it with climate change.
Many children have linked the changing and extreme weather conditions and the increased incidence of disasters to health problems caused by exposure to heat and lack of access to water, including the increased prevalence of cholera. Pollution, air quality and waste were also among the top concerns raised globally.
Oriana*, 15 years old, fled violence in Venezuela with her family as a baby. She now lives in a village on the outskirts of a Colombian town near the Venezuelan border. Oriana said:
“When I was six months old, it was raining heavily and the water would collect on the garbage and attract mosquitoes. At that time, dengue fever was quite common. Many children died from dengue fever and I have caught it and i was close to death i got dengue hemorrhagic fever from a mosquito bite and the doctor told my mom to say goodbye to me because there was nothing else to do .
Several children highlighted the links between poverty, inequality and the climate emergency – “tangled like a bowl of spaghettisaid a 14-year-old boy in the UK; a boy in india said “poverty is a brother of climate change”. Children noted that some are more exposed to climate impacts than others, with children from low-income households, girls, people with disabilities and children displaced from their homes most frequently cited as being at greater risk.
Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children International, said:
“Children bear the brunt of the climate crisis and inequality, and their opinions, actions and demands for change are some of the boldest and most tenacious. Their right to participate in decisions that affect them is also enshrined in international children’s rights law. Many children we have engaged with are frustrated at being ignored and feel that governments, businesses and adults in their communities are not doing enough.
“All adults owe children hope. The leaders of the world’s wealthiest countries have a special power to turn that hope into action, by reducing carbon emissions at home and unlocking the urgently needed funding to support the countries suffering the most from the climate crisis and inequality, but who have done the least to cause it.
“Inequality and the climate emergency are the underlying drivers of the global food crisis that leaves three billion people without access to nutritious food and 811 million people who go to bed hungry every night. Unless they are addressed urgently, we will see an increase in the frequency and magnitude of crises like this in the years to come.
The results of the children’s consultations are captured in a groundbreaking new report on climate change and inequality, to be released by Save the Children on October 26, 2022. Generation Hope: 2.4 billion reasons to end the global climate and inequality crisis will examine both the intersection of poverty and climate risk, and how this affects children around the world, and incorporates detailed feedback from children.
Save the Children calls on leaders to heed children’s calls and step up action to address the climate and inequality crisis and its disproportionate impact on children, in line with their obligations under international law.
The organization is particularly concerned that the countries hardest hit by the global climate and inequality crisis are facing rising debt repayment costs due to the global economic crisis, which prevent them from investing. in protection and life-saving services for children, including protection against climate disasters and the global food crisis.
As G20 finance ministers from the world’s biggest economies meet next week on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, Save the Children urges them to agree on action to fix the global system of debt relief, as well as to accelerate the ambition and delivery of urgent humanitarian, development and climate finance.
– The survey was conducted in 15 countries (Albania, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Canada, Colombia, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Nepal, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Philippines, South Korea and United Kingdom). A total of 42,213 children and young people aged 8 to 22 responded. Most surveys did not aim to reach a representative sample of the population, and sample sizes varied, from 33 in Kenya to 20,128 in Indonesia. Summary statistics are therefore illustrative rather than scientific, calculated as an average over all participants.
– The survey was part of a wider consultation that reached 54,500 children from 41 countries, including through in-person dialogues and online meetings. The aim was to listen to children talk about their experiences of climate change and inequality, and the changes they want adults to make, in order to shape Save the Children’s work and be able to support children in their own country.
– *Names changed to protect identities.
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