According to UNICEF, more than 19 million children, spread across 20 of Bangladesh’s 64 districts, are exposed to the greatest risk from climate-related disasters, over five million of them under the age of five.
The report calls for action in a number of areas, including health, nutrition, education, and water, sanitation and hygiene.
5 April 2019: The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has published a report that finds climate-linked environmental disasters are threatening the lives and futures of more than 19 million children in Bangladesh. The report calls for urgent action to keep children safe and to mitigate the impacts of such disasters on critical basic services such as healthcare.
The report titled, ‘A Gathering Storm: Climate Change Clouds the Future of Children in Bangladesh,’ explains that more than 19 million children, spread across 20 of Bangladesh’s 64 districts, are exposed to the greatest risk from climate-related disasters such as cyclones, floods and drought. Over five million of them are under the age of five.
According to the publication, around 12 million of those most affected live in and around river systems that regularly burst their banks, leading to life-threatening floods. Another 4.5 million children live in coastal areas susceptible to cyclones, including half a million Rohingya refugee children. Three million children live inland, where farming communities suffer from drought.
Bangladesh already has six million climate migrants, which could double by 2050.
The report underscores that Bangladesh’s flat topography, dense population and weak infrastructure increase its vulnerability to climate change. It explains that extreme weather events combined with longer-term climate-related phenomena, such as sea level rise and salt water intrusion, are forcing families deeper into poverty and displacement, leading to disrupted access to children’s education and health services.
The report includes accounts of child migrants forced from their homes as a result of floods or riverbank erosion. They often end up in overcrowded urban slums in Dhaka and other major cities, where they risk being forced into exploitative forms of labor and early marriages. According to UNICEF, Bangladesh already has six million climate migrants, which could double by 2050.
The UNICEF report advocates for action in the following areas: health; nutrition; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); education; social protection; child protection; communication, community engagement and accountability; and strengthening youth participation and engagement in climate change issues. Among specific recommendations, the report underscores the need to ensure that cash grants and other social services reach Bangladeshi families in the immediate aftermath of climate-related shocks, including migrant families when they arrive in Dhaka and other big cities.
The report also describes the ways in which Bangladeshi youth are helping to raise awareness about climate change. For example, YouthNet members are working in coastal and climate-vulnerable regions to increase awareness regarding disaster preparedness, water and sanitation, menstrual hygiene, gender-based violence and child marriage. [Publication: A Gathering Storm: Climate Change Clouds the Future of Children in Bangladesh] [Report Landing Page] [UNICEF Press Release] [UN Press Release]