New York: Fearing the consequences of climate change, the UN children's agency has warned that nearly 690 million of the world's 2.3 billion children living in areas most exposed to climate change face higher rates of death, poverty and disease from global warming.
Almost 530 million children live in countries hardest-hit by high floods and tropical storms, mostly in Asia.An additional 160 million kids are growing up in areas suffering severe droughts, mostly in Africa, UNICEF said in the report titled "Unless We Act Now."
"Children will bear the brunt of climate change. They are already bearing a lot of the impact," said Nicholas Rees, a policy specialist at UNICEF and one of the report's authors.
A key concern is exposure to diseases that could become deadlier as a result of climate change and rising temperatures, including malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and malnutrition. Heatwaves, which have become more frequent, are causing more severe rashes, cramps, exhaustion and dehydration, which is a common cause of hyperthermia and death among infants and young children.
The impact of droughts on agriculture is leading to malnutrition and undernutrition, which is responsible for half of worldwide deaths of children under five.
"A poor child and a rich child don't stand the same chances" when a flood or a drought hits, he said.
Coastal areas in South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean are among the most vulnerable along with Pacific islands, the Horn of Africa and equatorial Africa.
"Today's children are the least responsible for climate change, but they, and their children, are the ones who will live with its consequences," said UNICEF director Anthony Lake.
(With Agency inputs)