Child rights under threat from Africa’s climate crisis

Addis Ababa, 6 September 2022 - Child rights campaigners are warning that Africa’s looming climate crisis threatens the rights of children to life, health, education and security - whilst increasing the risks of violence, exploitation and displacement.

490 million children in 35 sub-Saharan countries are at risk from the worst impacts of climate change, and at least 11 million children across the continent face food insecurity due to extreme weather events including drought and floods.

Hundreds of child rights experts, civil society organisations, academics and high-level United Nations and African Union officials meet in Addis Ababa Ethiopia today [Sept 6] for the start of the Ninth International Policy Conference (IPC). They will be joined by government ministers from some of the African countries most vulnerable to climate risks - including Malawi, South Sudan, Sierra Leone and Gambia.

The conference aims to highlight the urgent need for financial investment and economic policies to prevent and respond to the effects of climate change on African children.

“Half of Africa’s population is under the age of 20. They are the ones who will suffer most from extreme weather events and climate-related disasters, from the long-term impacts of increased poverty, lack of investment and inadequate infrastructure,” said Dr Joan Nyanyuki, Executive Director of African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), which organises and hosts the IPC. “The climate crisis will likely trigger a major child rights crisis across Africa and reverse the little progress we have made in recent years.”

According to the Children’s Climate Risk Index, African nations head the list of countries where the most children are at risk from the climate crisis. Chad, Central African Republic, Somalia, Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the worst five countries in the world for the number of children exposed to the impacts of climate change.


Angola, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe are home to more than 11 million people, including children, who experience food insecurity caused by drought and flooding. According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), by 2100, increased temperatures could increase children’s malnutrition in Western Africa by 37 percent and in Central Africa by 25 percent.


“African governments urgently need to step up their financial investment and economic policies to prevent and respond to the effects of climate change on African children,” said Mrs Graça Machel, Chair of the ACPF Board of Trustees. “By 2050, Africa will be home to one billion children and young people who, given the right life chances, could power the continent’s social and economic renaissance. But they face a future of reduced employment, productivity and growth due to the economic impacts of climate change.” 


“Children and young people in Africa face a double-whammy from climate change,” added Mrs Machel. “They face more floods, droughts, food and water shortages, whilst at the same time, investment in essential children’s services could be diverted to pay for climate adaptation. African children and young people will bear the brunt of climate change in the coming decades, since the worst impacts are expected mostly in the second half of this century.” “The already heavy burden of malnutrition and disease among children in Africa is exacerbated by increasing drought, poverty, high food prices, displacement and insect outbreaks that are all related to extreme weather events,” said Dr Nyanyuki. “Climate change has a negative impact on the survival rate, development, growth and mental health of children in Africa - and girls and young women are especially vulnerable. The majority of children live in families and communities that have little resilience to respond and adapt to climate-induced emergencies.”


“Extreme weather events and rising temperatures lead to knock-on effects for African children such as increased poverty, child labour, severe malnutrition, lack of access to clean water, health and sanitation facilities, child marriage and school drop-out,” she added.



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