UNICEF report: Six-fold increase in number of children displaced by storms in Caribbean

UNICEF report: Six-fold increase in number of children displaced by storms in Caribbean

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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NEW YORK/PANAMA – The estimated number of children displaced by storms and flooding in the Caribbean has increased six-fold in the past five years, according to a new UNICEF report out yesterday.

Part of UNICEF's Child Alert series, Children Uprooted in the Caribbean: How stronger hurricanes linked to a changing climate are driving child displacement' found that an estimated 761,000 children were internally displaced by storms in the Caribbean between 2014 and 2018 – the hottest five-year period on record. This is an increase of nearly 600,000, compared to the 175,000 children displaced in the preceding five-year period from 2009 to 2013.

The estimates are based on data from UNICEF and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.

“This report is a stark reminder that the climate crisis is a child rights crisis,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Children in storm and flood-prone nations around the world are among the most vulnerable to having their lives and rights upended. They are already feeling the impacts of climate change, so governments and the international community should act now to mitigate its most devastating consequences.”

The report notes that the primary cause of the dramatic increase in forced displacement was a series of catastrophic tropical cyclones or hurricanes that hit the region between 2016 and 2018 – including four Category 5 and two Category 4 storms. More than 400,000 children in the Caribbean islands were displaced by hurricanes during 2017 alone.

The report warns that without urgent action to mitigate the effects of climate change, the increasing proportion of severe storms would likely result in similarly high levels of forced displacement in the coming decades.

According to UNICEF, forced displacement from hurricanes can be relatively short-term or can last for years as communities rebuild homes, roads, bridges, power networks, agriculture, schools, hospitals, and water and sanitation systems. Children are particularly vulnerable during population displacements, especially if their parents are killed or they become separated. Displaced children are also at increased risk of opportunistic diseases such as measles and respiratory infections, which can thrive in overcrowded conditions in emergency shelters.

Displaced children might also be left with limited or no access to the essential services they need to thrive including education, protection and health care, UNICEF added.

The report also calls on governments to take steps to help communities prepare and recover from catastrophic storms and protect children displaced by disasters related to climate change. Some of the recommendations include:

• Put children at the heart of climate change strategies and response plans;

• Reduce carbon emissions and pollution;

• Protect children from the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation;

• Provide displaced children with protection and access to essential services like education and health-care;

• Help displaced families stay together; and

• Ensure that uprooted children have legal status if they are forced to cross borders.

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