19mn Bangladesh children at risk from climate change

Source: India Abroad News Service

Dhaka, April 5 (IANS) An estimated 19.4 million children in Bangladesh, including half a million from the Rohingya Muslim minority, are exposed to the most detrimental and hazardous consequences of climate change, the Unicef said on Friday.

In a report released in Dhaka, Geneva and New York, Unicef said more resources and innovative programmes were urgently needed to avert the danger that climate change posed to poor Bangladeshi children, reports Efe news.

“Climate change is deepening the environmental threat faced by families in Bangladesh’s poorest communities, leaving them unable to keep their children properly housed, fed, healthy and educated,” said Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore, who visited Bangladesh last month.

The results of the report, titled “A Gathering Storm: Climate Change Clouds the Future of Children in Bangladesh”, were based on “existing available data” and focus group discussions, Sakil Faizullah, a Unicef spokesperson in Dhaka, told Efe.

“We analysed the data to see the impact of climate change on the children. Our experts interacted with families in Dhaka, Barisal, Cox’s Bazar,” he said.

Unicef found that Bangladesh’s flat topography, dense population and weak infrastructure make it uniquely vulnerable to the powerful and unpredictable meteorological forces that climate change is exacerbating.

Unicef concluded that a combination of extreme weather events, such as flooding, storm surges, cyclones and droughts, and longer-term phenomena directly related to climate change, like rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion, are pushing families further into poverty and displacement.

Around 12 million of the worst-affected children live in and around rivers, which flow through Bangladesh and regularly burst their banks.

Another 4.5 million, including almost half a million Rohingya refugee children living in fragile bamboo and plastic shelters, live in coastal areas that are regularly struck by powerful cyclones.

Another three million children live further inland, where farming communities suffer increasing periods of drought.

The report said that climate change is a key factor pushing poorer Bangladeshis to abandon their homes and communities as they try to rebuild lives elsewhere.

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