Children’s Voices from the Frontlines of Climate Change

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By Ahmed I Abba

As world leaders gather for COP28, children from across the globe are making their voices heard, demanding urgent action to address the climate crisis that is disproportionately impacting their lives. Through national ‘COP simulations’ organized by Save the Children and partners, young people from 14 countries have shared their perspectives and called for tangible solutions to protect their future.

Access to Education Amidst Climate Disasters

In Rwanda, children shared their harrowing experiences of floods and mudslides that have destroyed school buildings and roads, disrupting their education and access to essential services. “When there is heavy rain, children don’t manage to go to school…it causes mudslides. Then our parents start struggling to get school fees and this results in school dropouts,” they lamented.

Echoing similar concerns, children from Zambia highlighted the impact of droughts on their education, explaining that the need to search for water during these dry spells prevents them from attending school. This disruption of education, affecting an estimated 40 million children annually, is a stark reminder of the far-reaching consequences of climate change.

Investing in Climate-Resilient Infrastructure

Recognizing the need for proactive measures to safeguard their education and well-being, children across the simulations urged their governments to prioritize climate-resilient infrastructure. Zambian children called for investments in “flood-resistant materials, adequate drainage systems, and alternative energy sources” to protect their schools and communities from the impacts of climate change.

Similarly, children from Madagascar appealed for a bridge to connect their homes and schools, enabling them to continue their education despite rising water levels due to cyclones. These requests underscore the urgent need for infrastructure tailored to children’s needs, ensuring their safety and access to essential services amidst climate disruptions.

Addressing the Impacts on Hunger and Health

Children’s voices also highlighted the cascading effects of climate change on their families’ livelihoods, food security, and overall health. In Madagascar, children expressed concerns about their parents’ struggles to provide for them due to crop failures and income loss. “Our parents have difficulty finding enough to feed us,” they said, emphasizing the ripple effects of climate change on children’s well-being.

Nigerian children drew attention to the mental health impacts of climate change on adults, noting the stress caused by unpredictable weather patterns that threaten their crops and livelihoods. They advocated for “projects that generate agricultural production” to combat hunger and malnutrition, ensuring food security and alleviating the burden on their families.

Demanding a Seat at the Table

Throughout the simulations, children consistently emphasized the importance of their voices being heard in climate discussions. They expressed frustration with being excluded from decision-making processes that directly impact their lives. “Our voice is important, listen to us,” declared the group from Guatemala.

CEO Inger Ashing echoed the children’s call for recognition, stating, “The climate crisis is at its heart a child rights crisis. It’s taking lives, eroding children’s rights and threatening their future.” She urged world leaders to “step up and support children to implement their ideas for a better future.”

A Call to Action for World Leaders

As COP28 unfolds, the voices of these children serve as a powerful reminder of the urgency to address the climate crisis and prioritize the needs of future generations. Save the Children urges world leaders to:

Increase climate finance and direct support to children and families for adaptation and addressing losses and damages.

Recognize children as key agents of change and actively involve them in climate discussions and decision-making processes.

Urgent action to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, safeguarding the future of children worldwide.

The time to act is now. The well-being of our planet and the future of our children depend on it.

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