UNICEF warns billions of children at risk from rising heat waves

United Nations – The United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF) warned Tuesday that more than two billion children worldwide will face frequent heat waves by 2050 and so on extreme heat poses a serious threat to children’s health.

“Children, especially young children, are more vulnerable than adults to the effects of extreme heat, which can cause severe dehydration, respiratory problems and make them more vulnerable to other diseases,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a statement. new report released on Tuesday.

In the report, the agency said infants and young children are more at risk than adults when exposed to extreme temperatures because they are less able to regulate body temperature.

With increased exposure to heat waves, children are at greater risk for chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and cardiovascular disease, according to the report.

After the report was released, Paloma Escudero, the agency’s director of global communications and advocacy, said children should be included in UN delegations at upcoming climate meetings.

“We ask all parties to include children and young people in their delegations so that they can access the negotiations that will decide their future,” said Escudero.

A Yemeni girl waits as others fill their canisters with water in a makeshift camp for IDPs in the northern province of Hajjah on June 4, 2022, amid a severe heatwave and severe water shortage. / Credit: Essa Ahmed / AFP via Getty Images

Young people are “given the responsibility to care for the planet and we don’t bring … the power and resources to drive the change that is really needed,” said 25-year-old UNICEF Ambassador Vanessa Nakate of Uganda. CBS News by videoconference.

Fatima Faraz, 16, from Pakistan, complained that “we do not have sufficient resources to work on the climate crisis”.

For the United States, Escudero said heat waves lasting 4.7 days or more affect 22 million children, or 30 percent of the U.S. infant population.

“We also know that extremely high temperatures are also a major concern for American children with another 10 million children who are expected to be exposed to prolonged temperatures at high levels in the very high emissions scenario compared to current levels,” Escudero said.

The agency recommends countries to adapt critical social services such as access to clean water to withstand heat waves and that children be prepared to live in a world affected by climate change. The agency also called for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists have linked to climate change.

According to the new report, by 2050, nearly half of all children in Africa and Asia will face prolonged exposure to extremely high temperatures, and children in the northern parts of the world will face the most dramatic increases in heat wave severity. .

Escudero said the agency is looking to put young climate leaders on the agenda in Egypt at the upcoming UN climate change conference known as COP27.

“Children and young people are most affected by the climate crisis … not only are they demanding change, they are driving it – and they must be at the heart of our response,” said Russell, executive director of UNICEF.

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