Soni stands with her family in front of her temporary shelter in Sindh, Pakistan, on September 3, 2022, after floods destroyed their home. © Courtesy of Save the Children | Children in poverty
Two million homes destroyed or damaged. Schools and hospitals washed away or left in ruins. For months on end, floods have devastated Pakistan and left large areas underwater.
For children, the climate crisis is now attacking them on several fronts, leading to shortages of food, shelter, medicine and education.
“Children’s dependence on adults and their need for care makes them even more vulnerable. The aftermath of the floods is bringing more risks to children—hunger, disease, lack of healthcare and protection,” said Rabia Rauf, a Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist with Save the Children in Pakistan.
Rauf often spends three or four hours driving to flood-hit villages to deliver food rations to children and families. “Many children are now wandering around on their own, having lost their homes and their families,” she added.
They are among a vast and growing number of children around the world who face multiple, overlapping risks from climate change, poverty and hunger. An estimated 774 million—nearly a third of the world’s child population—are living with the dual impacts of poverty and high climate risk, according to Generation Hope, a new Save the Children report.
It draws on the experiences and insights of 54,000 children in 15 countries surveyed this year, including 1,200 children in Canada. The report reveals that 80 per cent of all children are affected by at least one extreme climate event a year. It also shows how the climate and poverty risks are worsening the global food, nutrition and cost of living crisis that is causing 345 million people in 82 countries to face a severe lack of food.
Of the Canadian children interviewed, a staggering 88 per cent said they have noticed climate change and/or inequality affect the world around them.
“The connection between climate change and inequality has created a perfect storm for nearly a third of the world’s children,” said Danny Glenwright, President and CEO of Save the Children Canada. “They are facing more extreme weather events, with those living in the greatest degree of poverty having the least protection and ability to recover.”
“Rapid intervention and leadership from high-income countries, like Canada, is critical,” added Glenwright. “And, along with other global decision-makers, Canada’s leaders can help to play a vital role by including children in the decision-making process around climate change commitments.”
Glenwright noted that Canadians could be part of the movement to address climate change by supporting organizations like Save the Children, which both address the effects of the crisis in programs across the globe and advocate for children’s voices to be heard.
Save the Children’s report also reveals that children born in 2020 will experience eight times as many river floods as children born in 1960. In Malawi, Luciano lost his brother and his home to a deadly storm in January. Now the 12-year-old, who lives in a refugee camp, faces the threat of hunger.
His family lived on an island devastated by Tropical Storm Ana, which killed dozens and left hundreds of thousands homeless in southeastern Africa. “All we managed to save was a few of our clothes. My little brother was on top of the house. It collapsed and suddenly he was gone,” said Luciano. “At the camp we do not eat enough food. I have lost some weight. But I have hope and I would like to live the life I lived before the floods.”
For over 100 years, we’ve advanced children’s rights around the world. We do whatever it takes every day and in times of crisis — to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We strive to ensure children’s unique needs are met and their voices are heard— transforming their lives and the future we share. Because we believe every girl and boy has the right to survive and thrive.