Growing up in a Warming World: The Effects of Climate Change on Children
Children growing up in Pakistan, especially those living in poverty, are most likely to be affected by climate change due to anthropogenic activities. As a result, impoverished children disproportionately face severe health issues, food shortages, and traumas as compared to their economically advantaged counterparts.
Children are physically weak and require specific niche conditions to survive, and thus consequently bear the brunt of hunger and malnutrition due to changes in food supply following floods and natural disasters.
Hotter temperatures, severe storms, increasing droughts, loss of lands, poverty, and displacement—in all these situations, children pay the highest price.
These issues disrupt children’s lives and their futures at the developmental stage of their upbringing, resulting in long-lasting trauma. According to a study in the October 2021 issue of Science, children today are projected to experience twice as many wildfires, 1.7 times as many tropical cyclones, 3.4 times more floods, 2.5 times more crop failures and 2.3 times as many droughts as someone born in 1960. Climate change affects all children, especially those who are immunocompromised. It has adverse effects on the mental enrichment of children in their developmental years. Longer and more intense heat waves make it dangerous for kids to play outside, while decreased air quality affects children by increasing the likelihood of asthma attacks, allergies, mental health problems, developmental delays, and changes in their genetic makeup.
33 million people, including approximately 16 million children, have been affected by 2022’s heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan, which have brought devastating rains, floods, and landslides. More than 400 children have been killed in the floods, while approximately more than 16 million affected children are without homes and access to safe drinking water while living in unsanitary and unhygienic conditions.
Children are ringing alarm bells about climate change and how it is detrimental to their health and well-being. As a failure on the part of older generations whose activities have sparked these changes, it is the collective responsibility of all relevant stakeholders to ensure that children do not lose their childhood due to disasters and are able to reach their full potential. This can be achieved by addressing climate change leading to reduce food insecurity and adopting responsible policy initiatives to safeguard the lives and future of children in Pakistan.
By Sanam Shabbir
Sanam Shabbir is a student at the Women University Multan. She was trained on citizen journalism and climate change awareness under SSDO’s two-year project: “Youth for Civic Action and Reporting on Climate Change through Citizen Journalism in Pakistan”, funded by the Commonwealth Foundation.