Climate Catastrophe: 43 Million Children Displaced in Six Years!

By Emma Nguyen October 6, 2023

The climate crisis forces 20,000 children to abandon homes daily, as per UNICEF’s shocking data.

One alarming statistic was revealed by UNICEF, which stated that over 43 million children were forced from their homes due to extreme weather events, such as floods, storms, droughts, and wildfires, between 2016 and 2021. On daily average, these severe weather conditions have displaced approximately 20,000 children.

95% of these displacements of children were due to floods and storms, while the remainder of dislocations was a result of drought and wildfires. The executive director of UNICEF, Catherine Russell, expressed her concern over this, saying, “A ferocious wildfire, storm or flood barreling into one's community can be terrifying for any child.”

According to UNICEF, this report is groundbreaking. “Up until now, children displaced by weather-related events had been statistically invisible,” the organization shared in a statement.

In the year 2020, Cyclone Amphan was responsible for 1.5 million child displacements across India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Bhutan. Following that, Typhoon Rai in 2021 caused 1.5 million child displacements in the Philippines, Palau, and Vietnam.

Out of all, three countries oversaw the highest child displacements, including the Philippines, India, and China. These regions displaced a total of 23 million children over the six-year timeframe due to their geographical location's vulnerability to violent weather events.

The report also highlighted the ratio of children displaced concerning the total population of each country. Notably, Dominica, a small Caribbean island, witnessed the displacement of nearly 76% of its child population over this period due to Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Countries such as South Sudan and Somalia had the highest percentage of child displacement because of flooding. This resulted in 11% and 12% of children respectively having to vacate their homes. Over in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan, more than 1.3 million children were displaced due to drought. Additionally, the US and Canada were not spared, with the growing incidents of wildfires leading to child displacement.

“For those who must evacuate, the fear and impact can be magnified. The fear of not being able to return home, resume schooling, or perhaps having to relocate again can be very disruptive,” Russell voiced.

Indeed, short or long-term displacement increases the risk of exploitation, trafficking, abuse, malnutrition, illness, and insufficient immunization among children. Alarmingly, the UNICEF report warns that as the human-induced climate crisis worsens, extreme weather is predicted to be more frequent and more violent.

The report cites that with each 1-degree Celsius global warming increment, the risk of displacement due to flooding is projected to grow by 50%. Russell proclaimed, “We have the tools and knowledge to counteract this escalating challenge for children, yet we’re reacting far too belatedly.”