By Partinella Ngozo
Children are being affected by climate change with the relentless destruction of ecosystems depriving them of experiencing nature’s beauty, clean air, safe drinking and recreational water, nutritious food supplies, and safe shelter.
Studies have shown that children under 12 months old are particularly vulnerable to heat waves. Infants’ mortality rate is going to be high. Young children are more likely to die or suffer from heat stroke because they are unable or lack agency to regulate their body temperature and control their surrounding environment. Dehydration can be caused by extreme heat-stress which slows the sweating rate leading to hyperthermia and infant mortality. Diarrhea is another factor that can increase the risk of heat injury and death (UNICEF, 2015).
Speaking during the Climate Justice Talk-Show, the Director, Perseverance Javangwe who is also a Climate Reality Leader, and Founder of Climate Justice Zimbabwe (CJZ) stated that there is need to accept that Global warming is real and its impact are being felt by children in the country and across the world.
“What is surprising is that despite political rhetoric about children being our future, the scale of the threat faced by today’s children is barely acknowledged. When the danger to future generations of children is assessed, it becomes clear that the need for action focused on children and climate change is vital.
“Severe weather events can destroy or disrupt infrastructure critical to children’s well-being, including schools, health facilities and transport. Droughts and flooding can destroy crops, disrupt water systems and contaminate water reserves and the dangers of climate change are more pronounced for children than for adults.” he said.
John Kauhanda from Namibia who also spoke on the same show stated that there is need for Africans to reduce green house emissions through food production from grassroots level because the negative impacts of climate change are being a threat to children and their children as well.
“The negative impact of global warming is a real threat to us and our children. What worries me the most is the fact that our population is increasing rapidly and food production is becoming more difficult especially for subsistence farmers which in turn means starvation and hunger for our children and their children. What pains me is the lack of integration of climate smart and eco-friendly farming which could improve yield and nutritious food for the young population. This challenging factors have also impacted the big industries and food prices keep rising while employment and wealth creation were a challenge even before the pandemic.
“With that said I would like to advocate for the reduction of greenhouse gas emission, more food production from grass-root level to industrial level and most importantly behaviour change and health lifestyles as our mindset as Africans and citizens of the world will determine the level of success of any initiative we embark on,” said Kauhanda.
Javangwe also aired out some information on what needs to be done in order to deal with the issue of climate change against children.
“We must embark on low carbon development to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and needs to adapt to the impacts of climate change that cannot be halted. We can take steps now to safeguard our children’s future, notably; cutting greenhouse gas emissions so that the average rise in the global temperature is limited to a maximum of 2º Celsius, and ideally to 1.5ºC.
“We have to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable in climate change adaptation efforts, particularly children who will bear the brunt of climate change far longer than adults. Time is nigh for children to know more about climate change and for the elders to work in the best interest of the future of the kids. There is need to provide children and youth with climate change education, awareness raising and training. Aligning and coordinating work on climate change adaptation, preparedness and disaster risk reduction at national and sub-national levels. And also investing in children as part of national climate plans on mitigation and adaptation,” he said.
Considering that children need to consume more food and water per unit of body weight than adults, they are more vulnerable to deprivation of food and water. Therefore, under-nutrition affects children over-proportionally and is responsible for nearly half of all under-five deaths. Extreme events such as droughts increase the direct risk of under-nutrition, but also impacts children indirectly. The weight of children born to women exposed to drought in the year before giving birth can be negatively impacted. Furthermore, exposure to under-nutrition in their first two years of life can cause stunting in children which affects physical and cognitive development, impacting the rest of a child’s life – including his or her schooling, health and livelihood (UNICEF, 2015).