Children on the Frontlines of Climate Change

Highlighted by Radio Canada International (RCI), UNICEF released a report linking the current super El Nino to children suffering. In addition to Southern Africa’s food shortages that we wrote about in our article last week, Man-Made? El Nino, Global Warming and 60 Million People Facing Severe Food Shortages, this most recent report discusses flooding and optimal living conditions for mosquitoes and the spread of disease (i.e. Zika, dengue and yellow fevers), increased potential for HIV transmission and severe drought conditions in the Eastern Horn of Africa. When combining both Southern and Eastern African regions, some 26 million children need support.
From the report:
  • In many countries, El Niño affected access to safe water, and has been linked to increases in diseases such as dengue fever, diarrhoea and cholera, which are major killers of children.
  • In South America, and particularly Brazil, El Niño has created favourable breeding conditions for the mosquito that can transmit Zika, dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya.
  • UNICEF also said there are serious concerns that Southern Africa, the global epicentre of the AIDS pandemic, could see an increased transmission of HIV as a result of El Niño’s impact. Lack of food affects access to anti-retroviral therapy (ART), as patients tend not to take treatment on an empty stomach, and many people will use their limited resources for food rather than transport to a health facility. Drought can also force adolescent girls and women to engage in transactional sex to survive. And, mortality for children living with HIV is two to six times higher for those who are severely malnourished than for those who are not.
First comes El Nino, second comes La Nina…with weather conditions “flipping.” Severe droughts could be followed by severe flooding, all the while affecting the very same children. UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programs, Afshan Khan, explains. “The same children who are affected by El Niño and threatened by La Niña, find themselves on the frontlines of climate change.”
We Heard You.
Mark Correnti
Photo: UNICEF/UN011586/Ayene

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