Children exposed to extreme climatic and environmental events Children exposed to extreme climatic and environmental events  (ANSA)

Climate shocks displace close to two million children in Sub-Saharan Africa

Save the Children is working to ehance prevention, preparedness, support and recovery from climate disasters to protect the youngest in emergencies. The NGO is calling on world leaders to address the crisis at the continent's first climate summit running until 8 September in Nairobi, Kenya.

By Camilla Dionisi

In 2022 the total number of sub-Saharan African children internally displaced within their own countries almost doubled, according to data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, an NGO that monitors and provides information and analysis on internally displaced people around the world.

The rising numbers require urgent action according to Save the Children, a charitable organisation that has been working alongside young children for over a century now. The NGO says that at the end of 2022, at least 1.85 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa were displaced in their own countries due to climate shocks. The consequences of climate disasters affect health, agriculture, security, housing and work. According to the World Health Organisation, climate change represents the greatest health threat to humanity.

Alarming numbers in Nigeria and Somalia

Floods in Borno State and other parts of Nigeria caused the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to these disasters to increase threefold over the previous year: from 2.6 million in 2021 to an estimated 4 million in 2022. By the end of 2022, at least 854,000 people remained displaced, including an estimated 427,000 children.

Somalia in contrast has missed five rainy seasons affecting 6.6 million people, 39% of the population now with critical levels of hunger. The country has the second highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) at 1.1 million.

These alarming numbers highlight how childrens' livelihoods throughout the region are being undermined by disasters due to the climate crisis and resulting extreme weather events, and as Save the Children states, this despite African countries having contributed least to the root causes with the lowest share of global greenhouse gas emissions.

"Climate refugee" concerns growing

According to Save the Children, the emergence of the El Niño weather pattern known to contribute to the generation of extreme meteorological events, the numbers of internally displaced persons are likely to increase 2023. In Borno State in northeast Nigeria, floods forced more than 30,000 people to leave their homes in 2022.

A 13-year-old girl, given the fictitious name of Falmata, recounts her experience: "Life was hard. We got separated from family members and never heard from them again. We found a small room to shelter but the structure was very bad because it had been ruined by rain. The ceilings are leaking and some parts of the room are open. When I see the clouds, I am afraid and I am reminded of the floods."

Children struggle to survive without water and adequate sanitation
Children struggle to survive without water and adequate sanitation

Save the Children's appeal

At the Africa Climate Summit taking place from 4 to 8 September in Nairobi, Kenya, leaders of African countries are sharing their experiences and voicing their concerns.

"Falmata's experience with last year's floods is all too common," says Vishna Shah, Director of Advocacy, Communications, Campaigns and Media at Save the Children's regional office for West and Central Africa. "In Nigeria and across the region, many children are terrified. They cling to survival as they move from one extreme weather event to the next, unsure if the unseasonal rains are a blessing for failing crops or if they will wipe out their homes. Children have done nothing to cause this crisis," concludes Vishna Shah, "and they need the international community to uphold its climate finance commitments, including resources for adaptation measures to address loss and damage, and to ensure that these take into account the specific needs of children."

For children, losing their homes means losing access to health care, education, food and security. Save the Children's interventions to combat the climate crisis globally include supporting children and their communities in preventing, preparing for and recovering from climate-related disasters. The charitable organisation is also actively monitoring forecasts and potential risks in all regions, while working with partners to help communities predict, prepare for and prevent the worst possible impacts.

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05 September 2023, 13:48