Climate change poses a direct threat to children’s ability to survive, develop and thrive, and extreme weather events such as hurricanes and heatwaves are increasing in frequency and intensity, threatening children’s lives and destroying critical infrastructure for their well-being. Floods also weaken water and sanitation facilities, which leads to the spread of diseases such as cholera, which poses an imminent danger to children in particular.
Drought and a global change in the rainfall pattern lead to crop failures and increase food prices, which means food insecurity and food deprivation for the poor.
Children are the most vulnerable to diseases that will become more common as a result of climate change, such as malaria and dengue fever. Children under the age of five bear nearly 90 percent of the disease burden attributable to climate change.
The same causes of air pollution are causing climate change. Nearly two million children live in areas where air pollution levels exceed standards set by the World Health Organization – forcing them to breathe toxic air and putting their health and brain development at risk. More than half a million children under the age of five die annually from causes related to air pollution. And many more will suffer permanent damage to the development of their brains and lungs.
Pneumonia remains a major infectious disease causing death among children under the age of five, killing up to 2,400 children every day. Child mortality from pneumonia is strongly linked to undernutrition, lack of safe water and sanitation, indoor air pollution, and lack of access to health care – all of which are exacerbated by climate change.