Climate change: ‘Children’s rights in sub-Saharan Africa undermined’, according to NGO report

Climate change is a reality and it is affecting planet Earth in different ways. Children, who are the future, are suffering severely from the disasters that result.

The non-governmental organisation Save the Children (based on an analysis of data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre) warned in its report released Monday that: “At least 1.85 million children in sub-Saharan Africa were displaced within their countries due to climate shocks” in 2022. 

Forced movements almost doubled last year – in 2021 there were one million – a record number. Most were still in refugee camps with their families or in other temporary locations at the end of 2022.

Data from Global Report on Internal Displacement 2023

Figures which, according to Save the Children, “lay bare” the harsh reality that children’s rights across the region are being “undermined at an alarming rate by the impact of the climate crisis”. Countries which, the organisation recalled, “have contributed the least to the crisis”, i.e. those with the “lowest share of global greenhouse gas emissions of all the world’s regions”.

Natural disasters lead to exodus in Nigeria and Somalia

Nigeria saw the most internally displaced people due to flooding in Borno state and other parts of the country in 2022. At the end of the year, at least 854,000 people were still far from home, including an estimated 427,000 children.

FILE – Somalis who fled drought-stricken areas arrive at a makeshift camp for the displaced on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia, on June 30, 2022

In Somalia, the second most affected country in terms of people displaced by the climate shock, there is a lack of water. The country has seen five rainy seasons go by without any rain. Around 6.6 million people, 39 per cent of the country’s population, have reached critical levels of hunger. This situation has led to the second highest number of internal exoduses in Africa: 1.1 million people.

“Political will” and action are lacking, says NGO

Malama Mwila, from Save the Children, explained to Euronews that political decision-makers “can help change the situation and protect and save millions of lives on the African continent and around the world”, and called for strategic decisions.

The Regional Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns Officer for the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office compiled the measures that need to be taken into three.

Firstly, he called on African governments “to prioritise the creation of progressive domestic revenues to finance climate change adaptation and mitigation measures”. For this to work, “redistributive fiscal policies are needed to protect the groups most affected by inequality, which are children and their families”.

Secondly, and “equally important”, is the commitment of “representatives of high-income countries (…) classified as historical emitters” to increase “inclusive and progressive financing and investment, especially green financing”.

The third measure, Malama Mwila added, is that “the voices of children and other stakeholders must be heard”. For him, what is failing is a lack of political will.

“When it comes to implementing and providing these funds, there has been little action, so political commitment, especially from the global North, has been lacking. It is fundamentally important that we note the commitments that have been made not only by African governments, but by governments around the world, in signing the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in signing the African Charter on the Rights and Labour of the Child, we must prioritise children because of the vulnerabilities they face, because of their social and physiological constitution,” said this Save the Children official.

Africa debates solutions to climate change

Giving young people a voice is part of the solution. Richard Munang, coordinator of the climate change sub-programme of the Africa Office of UNEP (UN Environment Programme), explained to Euronews that they “have the talent, the skills, they are very, very innovative, entrepreneurial”. We need to listen to them, “discuss what they are doing and how they can be supported in finding transformative solutions”.

Displaced families arrive after being rescued by boat from a flooded area of Buzi district, 200 kilometers (120 miles) outside Beira, Mozambique, Saturday, March 23, 2019.

Africa, under the auspices of the UN – at the “United Nations Africa Climate Week”, which kicks off this Monday 4 September in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital – is starting to look for solutions. It’s a kind of “warm-up” for COP28 – the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will take place at the end of the year in Dubai.

The starting point is “the current situation” – drought, floods, cyclones – on a continent that is “the lungs of the world” (with the forests of the Congo basin) and has the “youngest population in the world” – as Richard Munang explained.

Africa needs investment in agriculture, clean energy, solar, wind and geothermal. Issues to be debated in Nairobi.

The aim of this meeting is “to share knowledge with the global North and, of course, with Africa, and to show the solutions that Africa can offer,” said the Euronews interviewee. The meeting is expected to produce the “so-called Nairobi declaration, which shows not only the challenges facing Africa, but also the opportunities and investment opportunities that can attract funding”. Richar Munang emphasised that “climate change, despite causing damage, is also an investment opportunity”. The document, if signed, will be presented at the High Level Climate Summit organised by the UN Secretary-General and also at COP22.

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