Samuel's classroom was destroyed by the cyclone.


Weather-related disasters led to 43.1 million displacements of children over six years

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Weather-related disasters caused 43.1 million children to be displaced over a six-year period, with New Zealand’s Asia Pacific neighbours at particularly high risk, according to a new UNICEF report released today.

Auckland, 6 October 2023
– Three countries dominate the results on absolute numbers: the Philippines, India and China, with a combined total of almost 23 million child displacements due to weather-related events between 2016 and 2021.

Children in the Pacific islands of Vanuatu and Fiji featured highly on a per capita basis, with both countries in the top ten for proportion of children displaced by weather related events. 

“Children are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, despite being least responsible for it,” says UNICEF Aotearoa’s Policy and Advocacy Manager, Frances Cox-Wright. “It is frightening for a child to have to flee their home or school when a ferocious storm, flood or fire hits their community. This is becoming a reality for far too many children, and it’s happening far too frequently.” 

The Children Displaced in a Changing Climate report is the first global analysis of the number of children driven from their homes between 2016 and 2021 due to floods, storms, droughts and wildfires, and looks at projections for the next 30 years. 

The report found that in Vanuatu a total of 36,000 children were displaced over the five-year period – the equivalent of 25 per cent of the island’s child population. 46,000 children in Fiji – or 15% - were displaced over the same period. 

High-emissions climate scenarios suggest that devastating rare flooding events in Vanuatu and Fiji, which currently occur an average of once every 250 years, are likely to occur every 5-25 years by the end of the century. 

“Children in Aotearoa and in our Pacific neighbourhood will be increasingly affected by sea-level elevation, erosion and more frequent extreme events,” says Cox-Wright. “Young people in Aotearoa have been urging our decision-makers to step up and accelerate action on climate change”.

“Ahead of the election, we are urging New Zealanders to use their vote on behalf of children, for greater climate action. Immediately post-election we’ll be looking to our elected officials to take swift action and put children and our climate in the centre of all decision-making.”  

UNICEF Aotearoa continues to call on Government to: 

  • Declare the climate crisis a children’s crisis in Parliament 
  • Join other nations in signing the Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action.  
  • Establish a child and youth climate advisory committee – a formal mechanism for young people’s diverse voices to feed into climate policy and action. 

We’re committed to transparency. To see how we split up expenses and manage our costs, read our annual report or visit UNICEF Open to see a live overview of all our projects.

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