Children are the least responsible for climate change yet will bear the brunt of its impact. Approximately 160 million children live in high drought-severity zones with around 500 million which makes almost a quarter of the world’s child population living in extremely high flood occurrence zones. It is projected that by 2040, almost 600 million children will be living in areas of extremely high- water supply stress conditions.
Child rights deprivations resulting from climate change include among others; malnutrition, preventable illness and death from environmental hazards predominantly in children under five years, water-borne diseases with thousands made sick by polluted water, an offset of developmental gains in education due to damage or destruction of school facilities, extended disruption of education, and limited access to schooling.
Botswana is no exception as the country faces significant adverse health effects due to climate change, primarily due to the expected increasing incidence of rising temperatures, floods, droughts, and changing disease patterns. The country has a high incidence of climate-sensitive diseases and the risk of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever are likely to increase. Effects will be manifested through the increase in vector-borne and waterborne diseases, severe malnutrition, and increases in flood incidence and displacement of people. All these adversely affect children in Botswana with most cases occurring in the Northern Districts, with Bobirwa, Tutume, Serowe, Palapye, and Boteti as these are transition zones for malaria.
To this effect, UNICEF’s upcoming Climate Action Plan and the COP28 Presidency will focus on youth skills and education with a U-Report poll launch focusing on the extent to which young people feel prepared to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The results will be used to amplify the views of young people ahead of major climate events, primarily COP28, and bring attention to the actions that need to be taken to support children and youth in the future.
Among other things, the U-Report aims to amplify the voices and actions of young people who are being affected by the impacts of climate change ahead of COP28, expand the access and opportunities for young people to contribute to the global consultation and Global Youth Statement for COP28, provide an additional mechanism for UNICEF offices, youth organizations, the COP28 Youth Climate Champion and YOUNGO chapters to consult with youth through the LCOY and RCOY process.
A total of 252 U-Reporters participated in the recently conducted U-Report Climate and COP28 Poll in Botswana, 40% of U-Reporters indicated that they have learned about the climate crisis at school however, the education they received was not enough and this presents bottlenecks in Botswana's education curriculum. 56% of U-Reporters are aware of the importance, implications, and risks that come with learning about climate change and how to respond to it. In as much as educating students on how they can contribute to climate change policies should be prioritized, the Poll statistics however indicate that 47% of U-Reporters are not aware of how they can engage while 65% of U-Reporters feel that they are receiving the training and skills to help them respond to climate change and its impacts.