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Climate change: Over 110m Nigerian children vulnerable, says UNICEF

The UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate and the Chief of Field Office in Kaduna State, Gerida Birukila, made the disclosure separately in Kaduna and Gombe states, as part of activities to mark the 2023 World Children’s Day.

About 110 million children in Nigeria are facing the harsh realities of rising temperatures, making it the second most vulnerable country in the world for children’s exposure to climate change, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

It also said no fewer than 650,000 Nigerians have been displaced by flood within a four- year across the country.

The day, established in 1954 as the Universal Children’s Day, is celebrated on November 20 each year to promote international togetherness, and awareness among children worldwide, and improve the children’s welfare.

The global observance day was themed, “For Every Child, Every Right.”

Represented by Joyce Eli, Munduate said the displacement happened between 2016 and 2021.

The theme for this year’s celebration is: “Impact of climate change on children”

Birukila further noted that more than 3.1 million children could be displaced by riverine floods over the next 30 year.

She said Nigeria was the second worst country worldwide in terms of children’s exposure and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, scoring 8.5 out of 10 on UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index (alongside Chad).

“Nigeria’s child population of more than 110 million accounts for 10 per cent of the 1 billion children worldwide who live in extremely high-risk countries from the effects of climate change.

“Nigerian children are disproportionately affected by climate change.

Rising temperatures, flooding, drought and intense storms are the most serious climate-related threats to children in Nigeria.

“Among the direct health effects are physical dangers that lead to injury, heat stress, diminished access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene services, and an increase in waterborne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and malaria.”

Birukila added that environmental degradation and climate change also contributed to malnutrition due to a shortfall in food availability.

“And this contributes to increasing poverty and displacement.”

According to her, energy poverty in Nigeria is a cross-cutting issue that affects child rights.

Birukila lamented, “Only 55.4 per cent of the total population in Nigeria benefit from access to electricity. While urban areas have much greater access to electricity at 83.9 per cent, the rural population has to cope with just 24.6 per cent access.

From a child rights perspective, the impacts on learning, water access and health are of utmost concern.

The lack of climate-resilient sanitation services poses a substantial public health hazard for Nigerian children.”

The UNICEF official stated that diseases could spread across communities when people lacked access to safely managed sanitation services.

“UNICEF is also working towards the integration of climate change education in schools and supporting young people to engage in community-based climate action, such as tree planting and waste management activities.”

The top official said UNICEF looked forward to expanding its partnerships to advance the rights of children to a healthy planet.

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