Widespread flooding over the past three months has thrown the lives of about 19 million children off course in the top five most impacted countries, Save the Children said, highlighting the need for next week’s COP27 summit to get the climate emergency under control.
Children in Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Chad and South Sudan witnessed the most extensive flooding globally between August and October this year.
According to The International Disasters Database, flooding in these five countries affected 38.7 million people, with thousands of people killed and millions displaced.
Water flowing above dangerous levels left a trail of destruction in each country, with homes submerged, crops destroyed, and schools forced to close – jeopardising the education of thousands of children.
Torrential monsoon rains, accelerated by glacial melt, triggered record-breaking flash flooding in Pakistan this summer, which severely impacted about 16 million children – the highest number of children affected by flooding in a single country this year.
The floods disproportionately hit the most vulnerable households in the poorest areas of Pakistan, washing away livestock and millions of acres of farmland and submerging entire villages. As a direct result of the flooding, between 8.4 to 9.1 million people may be pushed into poverty, according to official government estimates.
The number of people going hungry in Pakistan has also soared by an alarming 45%, with 8.62 million people now facing a crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity – 3.4 million children.
The five countries most affected by flooding with available Acute Food Insecurity Data all suffer from high levels of food insecurity, meaning they are all in the grips of a hunger crisis that is being accelerated by climate disasters.
In Nigeria, where about 19 million people were already experiencing crisis levels of hunger or worse, extreme flooding has destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland.
More than 1.25 million children have been affected by the worst floods in Nigeria in a decade. With at least 250 schools destroyed and millions of people forced to flee their homes, flooding has taken a serious toll on children’s learning.
Falimata*, 16, lives in Likdir – one of the hardest-hit communities by the catastrophic flooding in Yobe State, northeast Nigeria.
Falimata explained: “We haven’t experienced a large volume of flooding in our community [before]. This year’s floods have destroyed homes, wiped away my parent’s farm, and blocked the road that leads to our school.
“We don’t have clean water. We have a shortage of food and have difficulty accessing medical services. I now stay at home without going to school, and I don’t know how long this will last. My dream is to be educated and support my community at large.”
The climate crisis is changing the world as we know it, with grave implications for children. According to a recent Save the Children report, one-third of the world’s child population is living with the dual impacts of poverty and high climate risk. The research also found that 80% of children are estimated to be affected by at least one extreme climate event a year.
Yolande Wright, Save the Children’s Global Director Child Poverty, Climate and Urban, said:
“It is extremely alarming how many countries have suffered from record-breaking flooding this year, let alone in the past three months. When looking at the total scale of how the climate crisis is affecting children worldwide, it is almost unimaginable.
“About 38.7 million people worldwide have turned their lives upside down by extreme flooding in the five worst affected countries, including about 19 million children. Many of these children are still reeling from the effects of the floods and require urgent assistance.
“COP27 represents one of the final opportunities to get the climate emergency under control and provide ambitious funding to secure a safe future for our planet and generations to come. The climate crisis is a child rights crisis, and the decisions made in Sharm el-Sheikh will affect children’s futures.”
It will take months, if not years, to repair the flood damage in all five countries. However, the scale of need required for sustainable and resilient reconstruction likely exceeds most of the countries’ available resources. Save the Children is calling on governments at COP27 to support the creation of a new loss and damage climate finance mechanism to help address the cost of the impacts of the climate crisis on children’s rights. This includes supporting communities already hit by climate impacts.
Save the Children teams have been responding to the floods in the five most impacted countries in the past three months where the aid organisation works (Pakistan, Nigeria, South Sudan and India).