Devastating Floods Have Left Over 27 Million Children at Risk, UN Says

The United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF warns this year has brought overwhelming flooding to at least 27.7 million children in 27 countries worldwide.

Floods in Bayelsa State, Nigeria, October 2022. Photo: Government of Bayelsa

Children are among the most vulnerable victims of floods, UNICEF said, citing example from this year’s major flood events in Pakistan, South Sudan, Chad, Nigeria and Yemen, among others.

According to UNICEF, flooding leaves children at high risk of a multitude of threats including death by drowning, disease outbreaks, lack of safe drinking water, malnutrition, disruption in learning, and violence.

The aftermath of floods is often more deadly for children than the extreme weather events that caused the flooding. In 2022, floods have contributed to the increased spread of major killers of children, such as malnutrition, malaria, cholera and diarrhoea.

As COP27 gets underway in Egypt, head of the UNICEF delegation Paloma Escudero said, “We are seeing unprecedented levels of flooding all around the world this year, and with it, an explosion in threats to children. The climate crisis is here. In many places, the flooding is the worst it has been in a generation, or several. Our children are already suffering at a scale their parents never did.”

“COP27 provides an opportunity to chart a credible roadmap with clear milestones for finance for climate adaptation and solutions for loss and damage,” said Paloma Escudero. “Young people from the most affected places on Earth are drowning in climate inaction. Enough is enough. Lives are on the line – children need action now.”

As well as pressing governments and big business to rapidly reduce emissions, UNICEF urges leaders to take immediate action to protect children from climate devastation by adapting the critical social services they rely on. Adaptation measures, like creating water, health and education systems that stand up to flooding and drought, will save lives.

Last year, developed countries agreed to double support for adaptation to $40 billion a year by 2025. At COP27, they must present a credible roadmap with clear milestones on how this will be delivered, as a step to delivering at least $300bn per year for adaptation by 2030. At least half of all climate finance should flow towards adaptation, UNICEF said.