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Is this the present and future we are leaving our children?

BALI, INDONESIA. – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) inked a landmark US$39 million climate grant on May 21. The grant will help facilitate the delivery of climate-smart social services in the East Asia Pacific Region and the Eastern and Southern Africa Region.

This three-year partnership will help to strengthen the resilience of child-critical social services and empower children as agents of change. The program aims to develop climate-smart and gender-responsive social services for children so that they are better protected from the climate crisis.

UNICEF is grateful to the Government and the people of the Republic of Korea for their support for children on the frontlines of the climate crisis,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director.

“KOICA’s climate funding will help to build community resilience and ensure that children have access to essential services and supplies – like healthcare, education, water, and food – even when climate-related disasters strike.”

Specifically, the partnership will strengthen climate-smart social services in Asia (Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste) and Africa (Comoros and Zimbabwe). These countries were selected based on KOICA’s dual priorities of supporting fragile and/or conflict countries and aligning with the Korean government’s commitment to addressing the interlinkages among the humanitarian, development, and peace interventions.

“KOICA’s climate grant will help UNICEF strengthen the climate resilience of essential service systems to protect children and communities, as the selected regions in Asia and Africa are among the most disaster-prone and vulnerable in the world,” noted Jungmee Sohn, KOICA Vice President.

“The Government of the Republic of Korea under its vision of a Global Pivotal State is committed to leading the world on a sustainable path, pro-actively tackling the climate and environmental crisis head-on.”

In the East Asia and Pacific Region, children born today will experience an estimated six times more climate-related disasters than their grandparents.
The region is currently home to the highest proportion of children facing three, four, or even five types of overlapping shocks, stresses, and hazards linked to climate change and a degraded environment.

Changing climatic conditions in the Eastern and Southern Africa Region have compounded environmental degradation and contributed to increased displacement and migration, with some 86 million internal climate migrants recorded, further reducing access to basic social services, increasing gender inequality, and deteriorating livelihoods and food security.

“The world is at a crossroads. We can head down a path that threatens to reverse the tremendous gains in child development, survival and well-being, or we can seize the moment, strengthen our commitment and mobilise our collective will to create a healthy, sustainable world fit for children now and for generations to come. This partnership is a major step in the right direction,” said George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF Director of Programme Group Leadership Team.

The fund represents the single largest grant received from the Korean Government.
The total grant is $39 million, with $29 million allocated to the East Asia and Pacific region and $10 million to the Eastern and Southern Africa region.

Overall strategy

The programme will fund climate-resilient, low-carbon social services with a focus on schools; health-care facilities; water, sanitation and hygiene; and last-mile infrastructure, mostly from floods, droughts, heat, and other extreme climate-related weather events, thus increasing the climate resilience of children, including people with disabilities.

The programme is structured around two identical outcomes that will be implemented in the East Asia and Pacific Region (Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste) and Eastern and Southern Africa Region (Comoros and Zimbabwe), respectively.

UNICEF is regreening school environments through tree planting and vegetable gardens for a sustainable environment.-Picture by Tanaka Ziyavaya

The programme will strengthen the enabling environment at both the national and subnational level through analytical research, which builds evidence to inform policy frameworks and advocacy briefs, and through capacity-building and leveraging cross-sectoral efforts to mobilize resources for climate action.

Overall target

Over 120,000 people (of which 48,000 are children) are provided with access to climate-smart social services and infrastructures across five countries (Comoros, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, and Zimbabwe).

● In Papua New Guinea, climate-related hazards have already significantly shaped life in the country, affecting its population, environment, and productive activities. Going forward, climate change is projected to increase the frequency, magnitude, and intensity of weather-related crises, putting the achievements of the SDGs in jeopardy.

In the past, coastal and inland floods, landslides, and cyclones have affected the country and have led to the injury and death of many people. In addition, millions of dollars have been lost to infrastructure damage, lower crop yields, health harms, and the cost of reconstruction.

● Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands, a number of low-lying Pacific islands, is one of the most vulnerable places in the world to climate change. Scientists predict that sea levels in the country will rise by as much as 100 cm by the end of this century, posing a significant risk to low-lying coastal communities throughout the country. It will also lead to increased coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion, which can dramatically decrease freshwater supplies and pose a serious risk to food security.

Further, increased rainfall throughout the country may lead to more severe flooding during the wet season, threatening flood-prone communities as well as the country’s infrastructure such as roads and bridges. The Solomon Islands likely experienced around 0.4°C warming up to the 1986–2005 baseline and, due to warm years since 2000, around 0.8°C warming up to the 2011–2020 baseline period. Rising temperatures can affect food security, especially when combined with other climate change impacts such as increased rainfall, pests, and diseases.

● Timor-Leste
The increasing impacts of climate change and disaster events in Timor-Leste are exacerbating existing socio-economic development challenges and driving up the costs of development.
Temperatures will continue to rise and variability will increase, which in turn will increase the potential for extreme weather events. Projected warming trends and the resulting impact on Timor-Leste are expected to be compounded by both seasonal variability and the impacts of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation phenomenon.

Shifting rainfall patterns will lead to more extreme rainfall events during the wet season and a decrease in rainfall during the dry season, compounding both flood risks as well as drought. Increasing sea-surface temperatures are expected to accelerate coral bleach and ocean acidification, which, in addition to increasing the risk of storm damage and fishing, will compound the pressure on Timor-Leste’s reefs.

● The Comoros is highly susceptible to climate change; and its population, in particular women and children, are exposed to climate and environmental hazards, including coastal flooding, tropical cyclones, water scarcity, and vector-borne diseases. In addition to risks to climate-related hazards, volcanic hazards and associated seismic activity resulting in earthquakes and tremors are also prevalent.

● For Zimbabwe, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and tropical cyclones are projected to increase. The last three decades have seen increasing average temperatures as well as increased incidences of intense rainfall interspaced by long dry spells and the late-onset and early cessation of rains, all leading to greater frequency and severity of droughts and floods. Zimbabwe is currently experiencing an El Niño, the impacts of which will continue into 2024, exacerbating extreme weather and climate events such as heatwaves, droughts, and floods.

Access to clean drinking water for schools and communities as UNICEF drills boreholes in schools. Nutrition gardens will improve livelihoods as the children are given the produce with some sold for sustainable farming. – Picture by Tanaka Ziyavaya

Contemporary societies ought to provide a livable planet for every child. Every child on the planet is already affected by climate change. Natural disasters, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss can devastate agriculture, cutting children off from nutritious food and safe water. They can lead to dangerous environments and disease outbreaks and destroy the safe shelter, quality health care, and education systems children need to survive and thrive.

The climate crisis is changing children. It is robbing them of their ability to grow healthy and happy and can ultimately cause illness, disease, and even death.
Efforts to sustain a livable planet must not only account for the unique needs and vulnerabilities of young people; they must also include them in the solutions. Children and young people have critical skills, experiences, and ideas for safer, more sustainable societies.
They are not simply inheritors of modern day inaction – they are living the consequences today.

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