One in four children in country affected by drought – Unicef

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One in four children in Portugal is affected by extreme drought, Unicef Portugal warned on Monday, after the Committee on the Rights of the Child published a guideline on the climate crisis.

“In Portugal, one in four children is affected by the severe and extreme drought that the country is facing,” said the executive director of Unicef Portugal, Beatriz Imperatori, quoted in a statement.

According to Imperatori, the state must guarantee the right to a “humane, healthy and ecologically balanced” living environment for all children, in accordance with Article 66 of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic.

“Today we call on political decision-makers, the public sector, all companies and institutions and civil society to put children at the centre of environmental strategies and empower them as agents of change. Change is needed in good time,” she emphasised.

Due to the worsening climate crisis, the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of the Child today published official guidance under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by 196 states, including Portugal, on what should be done to respect children’s right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

“General Comment No. 26 on the rights of the child and the environment, with a special focus on climate change” addresses “the impacts of the climate emergency, the collapse of biodiversity and widespread pollution, outlining countermeasures to protect the lives and life prospects of children, reinforcing the principle of intergenerational equity and future generations”.

The guideline states that “it is essential to guarantee access to adequate (resilient) housing; food security and the safety of all children, in order to reduce the vulnerabilities created by natural phenomena such as extreme weather events, environmental degradation or the loss of biodiversity”.

Countries that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child are encouraged to take immediate action, including phasing out coal, oil and natural gas and switching to renewable energy sources, and reporting periodically on progress made in protecting children’s environmental rights.

“With General Comment No. 26, the Committee on the Rights of the Child not only amplifies the voices of children, but also clearly defines their rights in relation to the environment that member states must respect, protect and fulfil… collectively and urgently!” said Philip Jaffé, a member of the Committee.

The document helps to interpret the countries’ commitment under the Paris Agreement.

“States are responsible not only for protecting children’s rights against immediate harm, but also for foreseeable violations of their rights in the future due to states’ actions – or failure to act – in the present,” it emphasises, pointing out that “they can be held responsible” for environmental damage within and beyond their borders.

Currently, according to Unicef, around one billion children live in countries at extremely high risk of the impacts of climate change and more than 99 per cent are exposed to climatic and environmental pressures.

Unicef recalled that two billion people live without access to drinking water, 600 million of whom are children.

“By 2040, almost 600 million children are expected to live in areas of extremely high water stress – one in four children under the age of 18,” it added.

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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