"Seeing my child sleeping on a floor, even amid this damp weather and eating lonely the biscuits that are given to us in the relief camp is a painful sight. She cannot even take flat rice (Chura) and jaggery".
Subrata Sardar works as a mason in Sandeshkahli II block in north 24 Parganas district to earn a livelihood and gets receives daily payment, to run his family. But presently he was hardly having any earnings to run his family. The cyclone has blown apart everything including their house.
Subrata's 23-year-old wife Sangita Sardar is presently 8 months pregnant and is staying with her 3-year-old child and husband. They have a small kuchcha house. As the torrential rainfall, due to deep depression in the Bay of Bengal, has hit the southern part of the Bengal region the most, the family had practically lost most of their movable and immovable belongings. This is not only Subrata's family story but this is the story of millions of families.
Climate Change induced disasters are among the most pertinent threats to human survival. Children in particular are at the receiving end. Today, 2.2 billion children worldwide are growing up facing the impacts of climate change. Representing over 30 per cent of the world's population, children have the absolute right to live in a decent environment with all that implies: having nutritious food, enjoying good health, learning and developing, and living and growing safely. These essential rights of children are directly threatened by climate change.
Climate Change is a global phenomenon, but when it comes to adversities, the poor countries who have contributed the least to it are going to suffer the most.
The magnitude of the suffering caused by climate change-related disasters is increasingly higher for South Asia because of high population density coupled with low per capita income. India has been adjudged the third most disaster-prone country in the world, behind China and the USA. China (577 events) and the USA (467 events) have reported the highest number of disaster events, followed by India (321 events) - UN Report: Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019. According to the report, India has been witnessing a diverse set of calamities that have claimed thousands of lives in the last two decades. Floods followed by droughts are among the most damaging disasters.
Some theories even suggest that COVID-19 may be just the starting point. Humanity may actually be facing more pandemics as we continue to reduce forest cover and biodiversity creating an ecological imbalance and exposing ourselves to diseases and threats.
Threat To Child Rights
Children are the most vulnerable to any disasters. As escalating droughts and flooding degrade food production, children will bear the greatest burden of hunger and malnutrition. As temperatures increase, together with water scarcity and air pollution, children will feel the deadliest impact of water-borne diseases and dangerous respiratory conditions. As more extreme weather events expand the number of emergencies and humanitarian crises, children will pay the highest price. As the world experiences a steady rise in climate-driven migration, children's lives and futures will be the most disrupted.
India is a young country where 40% of its total population is below 18 years. This means that any impact related to environment, disaster, and climate is going to greatly affect India's children, especially those who are living on the fringe, in terms of their basic needs to health and nutrition, learning, and protection. The devastating consequences could range from increase in malnourishment coupled with vector and water-borne diseases, hunger, loss of learning and livelihood, to exploitative situations such as child labour, trafficking, and child marriage to mention a few.
A World Bank report has found that Climate Change could push more than 200 million people to leave their homes in the next three decades and create migration hot-spots unless urgent action is taken to reduce global emissions and bridge the development gap.
According to the World Economic Forum's 2020 Global Risk Report, extreme weather conditions are putting populations around the world at risk of food and water insecurity. Children face an uncertain future with less nutritious crops, air pollutions, rising average temperatures and other weather-related disruptions to livelihoods.
Numerous studies have pointed out that the people bearing the heaviest burden are the poorest and most marginalised children and their families. Extreme temperatures leave many families living in poverty with less food, less clean water, lower incomes and worsening health conditions. Children's immune systems are still developing, leaving their rapidly growing bodies more sensitive to disease and pollution. Extreme events can destroy homes, schools, child care centres and infrastructure critical to children's well-being. The Climate Crisis is pushing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) out of reach - with the poorest children already worst affected. We have a decade to achieve the SDGs – and the climate crisis will make it harder to achieve those goals and the pledge to leave no one behind.
If we don't address the climate crisis right now, we risk undoing years of progress made towards realizing the rights of children.