LONDON: Women and children in the poorest parts of the world are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, newly-appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Vanessa Nakate told a briefing on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday.
Speaking after a trip to the Horn of Africa region last week, the Ugandan climate activist highlighted how a water supply crisis in the area was impacting communities, especially mothers and their children trying to receive lifesaving treatment for severe acute malnutrition.
She traveled last week with UNICEF to Turkana Country in northwestern Kenya, and said while UN-funded projects were having a positive impact on those affected, with families benefiting from solar-powered water supply systems, much more work and funding was needed.
“In Kenya, the people I met told me about the impact of climate change and drought on their lives, with four consecutive failed rainy seasons depriving children of their most basic rights,” she said.
“One community had not received any rainfall for over two years. This is more than a food and nutrition crisis, it is yet another dimension of our worsening climate crisis.
“Much has been said about the impact the war in Ukraine has had on food security on this region, but fair less has been said about another important factor in the Horn of Africa, and that is the impact of climate change,” she added.
According to UN estimates, almost 1 billion children live in one of the 33 countries classified by UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index as at “extremely high-risk” of the impacts of climate change, with the ten worst-affected countries all in Africa.
This means they live in conditions which directly threaten their health, education, and protection, and expose them to deadly diseases.
“The ongoing emergency in the Horn of Africa is depriving children of a meal, of safe water, access to life-saving health services and it is keeping them from classrooms and forcing their families to move,” Nakate said.
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell echoed Nakate’s concerns, and said the Ugandan activist would excel in her role as a goodwill ambassdor.
“Vanessa’s work to drive climate action that benefits the communities most affected by the climate crisis aligns directly with UNICEF’s mission to drive change for every child,” she said.
“We hope her appointment as a UNICEF global goodwill ambassador will help ensure that the voices of children and young people are never cut out of the conversation on climate change — and always included in decisions that affect their lives.”