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Catch them young on Climate Change- UNICEF

By Nyasha Mutena

There is an urgent need for the nation to enable effective participation of children and young people in the climate change subject, considering that they bear a huge brunt of its effects, UNICEF Zimbabwe has said.

This clarion call comes at a time when the country has witnessed a fair share of frequent and severe storms, floods, droughts as well as changing rainfall patterns resulting in water shortages, bad sanitary conditions and ultimately public health outbreaks. These factors negatively impact child health and risks such as increased food security, violence against children and women and disruptions to schooling.

During a meeting with the media in the capital yesterday, Climate change specialist, Mrs Agline Tauya pointed to the need for a catch them young approach on the climate change subject through development, funding and implementation of child sensitive national climate change policies, strategies and plans.

“The climate change matter has been ongoing for quite a long time and we all have witnessed its fair share of adverse effects, children have grown accustomed to uncomfortable chores which include walking distances to fetch water from boreholes but you will find out that they may not really understand that all this was brought forward by climate change, we need to ensure that they actively participate in shaping the future that will be theirs through their inclusion in the dialogue,” She said.

She implored journalists to use simplified language when they write climate change stories to ensure that children understand the matter as well as promote their meaningful participation in the climate change agenda.

About 6.5 million children in Zimbabwe are vulnerable to climate induced emergencies according to the 2021 UNICEF Children’s Climate Risk Index which demonstrates that the country is at high risk. About two thirds of preventable illness and death from environmental hazards is experienced by children especially those aged under 5 years and climate change inhibits their right and access to basic services.

Mrs Tauya highlighted that climate change is a child rights crisis and therefore climate-adaptation and mitigation efforts need to include the needs of children.

“Children and young people can be actors of change and their voice must be heard in climate adaptation and mitigation efforts yet they are largely missing from the climate dialogue,” said Mrs Tauya.

Also speaking, member of the youth advisory committee, Desire Nyagura said children are willing and able to articulate their climate-related experiences and needs therefore the onus is upon parents, teachers, duty bearers and those in the know-how to provide climate sensitive and resilient basic services, including education, health, nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene, protection of children and social protection.

He added; “While efforts must be around ensuring that the results achieved for children remain in place, the way children are being supported and their needs addressed must adapt to the reality of climate change.

“Water, sanitation, health, education, nutrition and protection services must be designed and delivered factoring in the known and foreseen risks posed by increasingly frequent and severe storms, floods and droughts”.