The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has disclosed that no fewer than 650,000 Nigerians have been displaced by flood within four years across the country.
This was made known by UNICEF’s Chief of Field Office in Kaduna State, Gerida Birukila, on the occasion of the commemoration of World Children’s Day on Monday in Kaduna, themed, “Impact of Climate Change on Children”.
Represented by Joyce Eli. UNICEF’s chief said that the displacement happened between 2016 and 2021, while noting that more than 3.1 million children could be displaced by riverine floods over the next 30 years.
She said Nigeria was the second worst country worldwide in terms of children’s exposure and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, scoring 8.5 out of 10 on UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index (alongside Chad).
“Nigeria’s child population of more than 110 million accounts for 10 per cent of the 1 billion children worldwide who live in extremely high-risk countries from the effects of climate change.
“Nigerian children are disproportionately affected by climate change. Rising temperatures, flooding, drought and intense storms are the most serious climate-related threats to children in Nigeria.
“Among the direct health effects are physical dangers that lead to injury, heat stress, diminished access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene services, and an increase in waterborne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and malaria,”she said.
Birukila added that environmental degradation and climate change also contributed to malnutrition due to a shortfall in food availability. And this contributes to increasing poverty and displacement.”
“The lack of climate-resilient sanitation services poses a substantial public health hazard for Nigerian children.”
She added that unless an urgent action was taken, years of progress in the sanitation sector could be undermined by climate change.
Birukila further said that opportunities existed for sanitation to contribute to climate resilience in the WASH, agriculture, and energy sectors.
She emphasised that sanitation systems could be adapted to resist climate shocks and stressors, and safely managed to contribute to climate change mitigation.
Speaking further, Birukila said that the safe use of sanitation wastewater and sludge from sanitation systems for irrigation and energy recovery had a large unmet potential in Nigeria to contribute to adaptation and mitigation in the agriculture and energy sectors.
She reiterated UNICEF’s deep commitment to addressing climate change, adding that in Nigeria, they developed a Climate Action Plan (2023- 2027).
Birukila said that the action plan focused on mitigating climate risks and adapting solutions to climate shocks through a multi-disciplinary, collective effort that engaged children and youth, and empowers local communities and authorities at all levels.
In hers words: “Some of the ways that UNICEF Nigeria is working to address climate change is through the installation of climate-resilient infrastructure for water, sanitation and hygiene services in schools and communities.
“UNICEF is also working towards the integration of climate change education in schools and supporting young people to engage in community-based climate action, such as tree planting and waste management activities,” she said.
The UNICEF official also said that it looked forward to expanding its partnerships to advance the rights of children to a healthy planet.
She listed seven priority areas in which their collaboration was anchored with other bodies in the country. They include; government authorities, development partners, CSOs, youths and children-based organisations and private sector players.
Speaking on climate change, the Kaduna State Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development, Hajiya Rabi Salisu, said state has a law that protects children with an implementation committee that takes care of Children’s welfare which extends to children, women and people with disabilities in areas prone to flood and natural disasters.