Record temperatures are not felt only in our latitudes: for weeks in various parts of Asia the heat has put the population in difficulty. Threatening especially the little ones. According to a recent Unicef report, about 1 billion children – almost half of the world‘s children – live in countries that are at “very high risk” from the impact of climate change
With climate change, the heat is being felt, not only in Italy: in recent weeks record temperatures have been recorded in much of the Asian continent, now grappling with the monsoon season. 45°C was reached in India, 44.2°C in Vietnam, 43.5°C in Laos, 43°C in Myanmar, while in Thailand the heat reached 42°C in the capital, with the heat index – i.e. the sensation of temperature combined with humidity – reached 54°C.
But who suffers the most from the heat?
A recent Unicef report titled “Beyond the point of no return” revealed that in the East Asia-Pacific region children are highly exposed to water shortages (more than 140 million), coastal flooding (120 million), cyclones (210 million) and air pollution ( 460 million).
Globally, an estimated 1 billion children – nearly half of the world‘s children – live in countries that are at “very high risk” from the impacts of climate change, due to a combination of high exposure and high vulnerability and low levels ability to cope with it. All countries in East Asia and the Pacific are at “high” or “extremely high” risk, according to the Child Climate Risk Index (CCRI). Furthermore, the region is one of the most affected by multiple types of overlapping shocks and stresses. Indeed, 65% of children face four or more shocks compared to the global average of 37%, reducing their ability to survive and harming their growth potential.
These climate shocks are increasingly frequent and interact with other crisis drivers, creating multiplier effects and cascading impacts across the region. Climate change is having an impact on children’s nutrition, education (as disasters damage infrastructure), well-being and health as they are exposed to an increased risk of mortality and morbidity, chronic respiratory conditions, asthma and diseases cardiovascular. The climate crisis is thus transformed into a crisis of children’s rights which affects and undermines the effective enjoyment of the protections sanctioned by the UN Convention on the rights of children and adolescents.
Together with children, the most vulnerable are the poor. In a recent report from India, al Jazeera collected the testimonies of workers who toil during their 12-hour work day. “In the afternoon the situation is terrible. It feels like a hot oven,” Mamta told Al Jazeera from her construction site in the Chhatarpur area of Delhi. “It is very difficult to work in this heat… but my family depends on my earnings”.
Therefore, the losers are the poor population and those whose work requires being outdoors: workers, farmers, street vendors and construction workers. “Whether it’s hot or cold, I don’t have the ability to stay home,” said Khan, a welder and father of three who earns $4-5 a day.
“India has always been a hot country… but the number of extremely hot days and heat waves (consecutive hot days) has increased across the country,” said Aditya Pillai of the Center of Policy Research (CPR). citing climate change.
In addition to causing difficulties in carrying out work activities, heat can cause health problems such as dehydration, headaches, fatigue, heat strokes and even death: since 2010 it is estimated that at least 6,500 people in India have died from related diseases warm.
According to the study authors, heat action plans – which are run and funded by governments and aim to help people cope with extreme heat through awareness programmes, training for health workers and affordable cooling methods – need to be implemented more quickly in India and other heat-hit countries.
“Access to health care and cooling solutions such as fans and air conditioners is absent for a large part of the population of this region,” said Vimal Mishra, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Gandhinagar. “We should go beyond attribution of causes and talk about how to build climate resilience.”