The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) says no fewer than 650,000 children were displaced by flood in four years across Nigeria.
The UNICEF Chief of Field Office in Kaduna State, Gerida Birukila, made this known at the commemoration of the World Children’s Day in Kaduna on Monday.
Birukila, who was represented by Joyce Eli, said the displacement occurred between 2016 and 2021.
Birukila noted 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).
The UNICEF official said: “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.”
Birukila added that environmental degradation and climate change also contributed to malnutrition due to a shortfall in food availability.
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“And this contributes to increasing poverty and displacement,” she said.
According to her, energy poverty in Nigeria is a cross-cutting issue that affects child rights.
The UNICEF chief added: “Only 55.4 per cent of the total population in Nigeria benefit from access to electricity.
“While urban areas have much greater access to electricity at 83.9 per cent, the rural population has to cope with just 24.6 per cent access.
“From a child rights perspective, the impacts on learning, water access, and health are of utmost concern.
“The lack of climate-resilient sanitation services poses a substantial public health hazard for Nigerian children.”
The UNICEF official stated that diseases could spread across communities when people lacked access to safely managed sanitation services
“Children and their families are also at risk of reverting to open defecation in drought-prone areas of Nigeria when water shortages make the cleaning and maintenance of toilets difficult or render water-based toilets non-functional,” Birukila said.
She added that unless urgent action was taken, years of progress in the sanitation sector could be undermined by climate change.
Also speaking, the Kaduna State Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development, Rabi Salisu, assured children of the improvement of their social well-being.
Salisu said Kaduna State has a law that protects children with an implementation committee that takes care of Children’s welfare.
Speaking on climate change, the commissioner said it affected children, women, and people with disabilities in areas prone to flood and natural disaster.
She assured the children that the state would launch a children’s parliament where the plight and concerns of children would be addressed.
The commissioner also restated the state government’s commitment to ending street begging and its continued engagement in enrollment of out-of-school children.