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According to a recent UNICEF report, an alarming one in three children worldwide, totaling 739 million, are currently living in areas with high or very high water scarcity. This situation, exacerbated by climate change, poses a significant threat to children’s health and well-being.

Source: NBC News/YouTube

The report, titled “The Climate Changed Child,” released ahead of the COP28 climate change summit, highlights the severe impact of water vulnerability on children. This vulnerability is characterized by three tiers: water scarcity, water vulnerability, and water stress. It emphasizes how Climate change, manifesting through factors like dwindling water availability and inadequate drinking water and sanitation services, disproportionately affects children. They are more susceptible to environmental impacts, including air Pollution and extreme weather events, which can hinder their physical and mental development.

A worrying aspect of the report is the double burden faced by a large number of children – 436 million – who are exposed to both high water scarcity and low drinking water service levels, termed as extreme water vulnerability. This predicament is particularly pronounced in low- and middle-income countries in regions like sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Southern Asia, and Eastern and South-Eastern Asia. Countries such as Niger, Jordan, Burkina Faso, Yemen, Chad, and Namibia are among the most affected, with eight out of ten children experiencing these harsh conditions.

UNICEF’s report warns that by 2050, an additional 35 million children will be exposed to high levels of water stress, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. This water stress refers to the imbalance between water demand and available renewable supplies.

Despite their heightened vulnerability, children have been largely overlooked in Climate change discussions. Only a small fraction of climate finance from key multilateral funds supports child-responsive projects. At COP28, UNICEF is advocating for global leaders to prioritize children in climate action, calling for the inclusion of child-responsive measures in adaptation, mitigation, and financing strategies.

The report underscores the need for urgent action to protect the lives and futures of these children. Investment in safe drinking water and sanitation services is crucial, alongside empowering children to be environmental champions and fulfilling international sustainability and climate agreements. The message is clear: the time to act for the future of our children and the planet is now.

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