MANILA, Philippines – As the world approaches the point of no return on climate change, and with the Philippines being the global epicenter of the climate crisis, Filipino children are taking matters into their own hands through their own initiatives.
A recent global analysis by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that climate-related disasters caused 43.1 million internal displacements of children in 44 countries between 2016 and 2021.
The report states that the Philippines is ground zero of the crisis “with the highest absolute number of child displacements, 9.7 million.” He said about 2.5 million children across the country are at risk of being displaced by storms in the next 30 years.
“This risk is aggravated by the fact that the country’s coasts are highly susceptible to storms and can affect even densely populated cities such as Manila, Cebu and Davao,” explained Unicef.
READ: Millions of children displaced by extreme weather events
Despite having preparedness measures and innovations that could help in the event of a disaster, the report states that the large number of children who could potentially be displaced by a single disaster in the country is alarming.
A separate study in 2021 said that children in 10 countries (Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, Philippines, Portugal, UK and US) experience climate and ecological anxiety or “distress related to climate and ecological crises.”
More than half of the 10,000 children interviewed for the study said they were “very” or “extremely worried.”
The Philippines recorded the highest number of children surveyed who felt “very worried” and “extremely worried” about climate change: 84 percent (49 extremely worried, 35 very worried).
READ: ‘Eco-anxiety’: children with HP are among those most stressed by the climate crisis
According to Unicef Philippines, children in the Philippines experience extreme levels of climate anxiety, but they are also the most resilient and committed to combating the crisis.
“All children should have certainty about their future and be protected from events that affect their mental well-being,” he added.
In this year’s celebration of World Children’s Day, the Quezon City government and Unicef Philippines recognized the voice, involvement and leadership of children and youth in climate change efforts.
Young people from PH lead the fight against climate change
Survey results from the Local Youth Conference 2023 (LCOY) and Unicef’s U-Report Philippines showed that young Filipinos are ready to do their part in addressing climate change and its impacts.
When asked how prepared they were to act on climate change and disaster preparedness, 88 young Filipinos shared varied views and opinions:
- 48% said they are “extremely ready, but continued training and support would be helpful”
- 23% said they are “very ready and eager for more training and support”
- 11% said they are “moderately ready and open to additional training and support”
- 10% said they are “not ready, but willing to learn with training and support”
- 8% said they are “somewhat ready, wanting more training and support
A separate survey of 376 children questioned showed that 81 percent said they were aware that their actions could bring about a positive change in improving climate policies in the country.
“Children in the Philippines are bearing the brunt of climate change. They need to have more opportunities to meaningfully participate in decisions and actions that affect them,” said Unicef Philippines representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov.
“The voices, perspectives and ideas of children and young people must be heard at the highest level and taken seriously. Many children and young people are already doing their part,” she added.
Last Sunday (19/11), the event “Ngayon, Para Bukas! The Call for Collective Climate Action” was held in time for World Children’s Day and Climate Awareness Week.
Among the youth-led programs highlighted by Unicef during the event included an organization that protects Irrawaddy dolphins in Western Visayas, an initiative that teaches environmental and agricultural programs to public schools, a network of young environmental journalists and a group defense that empowers communities living around the Pasig River.
More action needed
Unfortunately, surveys also revealed that many Filipino children felt they were not receiving the training and skills needed to help them respond to climate change and its impacts.
Based on survey results and dialogues with children and youth in the Philippines, U-Report Philippines, LCOY and Unicef Philippines drafted the Philippine Youth Declaration on Climate Action and Disaster Resilience 2023, which calls on the Philippine government for:
- Advocate for community-centered platforms for youth education and engagement in climate action and disaster resilience.
- Develop effective, inclusive and accessible narratives about climate and the environment.
- Establish a mental health support network among children and young people working on climate action and disaster resilience.
- Build resilient communities that can prevent, prepare for and respond effectively to disasters and the impacts of climate change.
- Establish inclusive, accessible and safe spaces for all vulnerable sectors.
- Implement nature-based solutions that involve children and young people.
- Empower children and young people to act towards an inclusive, accessible, fair and regenerative agricultural and fishing system.
- Empower children and youth for advanced, accessible, fair and sustainable renewable energy and water resources.
- Increase the participation of children and youth in the robust implementation of effective waste management policies and programs.
- Create a safe and enabling environment for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) and environmental defenders through protection, meaningful engagements and cultural strengthening.
- Support Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) that promote ecologically conscious businesses built towards a circular economy.
Climate crisis: child rights crisis
The Philippines ranks first in terms of disaster risk according to the 2022 World Risk Index, as well as first place in the East Asia and Pacific region in the Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI).
“Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and slower-onset climate impacts, such as rising sea levels and rising temperatures, are affecting the health, nutrition and education of children in the country,” he said. Unicef Philippines.
“Poor children, children with disabilities, children who belong to indigenous groups, children in situations of armed conflict and girls are especially vulnerable,” he added.
Climate change, Unicef said, is a child rights crisis. Environmental damage and climate change pose a significant threat to children’s rights globally.
“The climate crisis is a child rights crisis. Governments must protect the rights of all children, especially boys and girls who live in countries that have contributed least to this problem but face the most dangerous floods, storms and heat,” said Dendevnorov.
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