CLIMATE change continues to affect children in many ways.
Rising temperatures, drought, water scarcity, rising sea levels, catastrophic storms and floods, among other things, increase diseases and cause developmental delays in children.
It is against this background that the Government of Zimbabwe and UNICEF had a dialogue to take stock of climate change challenges and to make a call for children to be at the heart of climate change strategies and actions.
Climate change and safety of children is a national priority for Zimbabwe.
The National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1) of the Government of Zimbabwe emphasises environmental protection, climate resilience and natural resource management.
The discussions held revealed the need for action to incorporate child rights into climate change strategies and plans.
“The need to protect children from the impacts of climate change and pollution cannot be overemphasised,” said the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mangaliso Ndlovu.
“We also need to bring to the fore specific financing for children to enable long-term resilience building, enhance capacities for adaptation and reduce emissions and pollution.”
The climate change crisis is a child rights disaster not only in Zimbabwe but globally.
A recent research by UNICEF shows that children are more affected by climate change due to their vulnerability to equip themselves mentally, physically and emotionally in dealing with life-threatening conditions.
The research revealed that about 559 million children are currently exposed to heat wave frequency while 624 million children are also exposed to one of three other high heat measures that include high heatwave duration, high heatwave severity and extreme high temperatures. Different countries, Zimbabwe included, are taking part in various activities to tackle climate change and mitigate consequences.
UNICEF on the other hand is pushing for governments to protect children from climate consequences by ensuring that they adapt proper social services.
To ensure that children in Zimbabwe are protected, stakeholders in the environment and climate industry have vowed to create a clean and safe environment for children.
This involves governments adapting critical social services such as water, sanitation and hygiene.
Stakeholders in the environment and climate industry in the country also agreed to create modalities to empower children as agents of change and to also involve them in decision making processes.
Climate financing mechanisms in the country are also being put in place to ensure protection of children from climate change impacts.
Climate change is threatening children’s right to survive and their ability to succeed in different social and educational disciplines.
Due to the impacts of climate change, children in most developing countries are faced with threats of diseases that include malnutrition, respiratory diseases and diarrhoea, among others.
Extreme climatic events also result in the disruption of health, education and other services that contribute to the cognitive, social and physical development of children.
The dialogue between Government and UNICEF also revealed the need for children to be educated on how to adapt to the immediate and future challenges arising from climate change as well as to be empowered to play a key role in ensuring environmental sustainability and resilience.
The impact of Cyclone Idai in 2019 and recent droughts show that Zimbabwe is prone to climate-induced shocks with increasing intensity and frequency.
Participants at the high-level dialogue therefore agreed on the need to expedite addressing climate change challenges in the country.
Government therefore has developed the Clean Green Zimbabwe Initiative with the support of UNICEF that seeks to promote a safe and clean environment for children.
Dr Tajudeen Oyewale, a UNICEF representative in Zimbabwe commended government for putting in place the Clean Green Zimbabwe Initiative.
“While the child-sensitive nature of Zimbabwe’s National Climate Change Response Strategy is laudable, there is no time to waste in advancing key actions – in collaboration with all partners,” said Dr Oyewale.
“I commend the Government of Zimbabwe for putting in place the Clean Green Zimbabwe Initiative.
“I am also pleased to release the UNICEF Zimbabwe Climate, Energy, Environment and Children Strategy as our commitment to support the Government and work with partners towards climate action for children and young people.”
This year Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt will host the 27th Conference of Parties on Climate Change COP27 which is also known as the United Nations Climate Change Conference .
The event will be held from November 7 to November 19 2022.