The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has identified Nigeria as the second most vulnerable country globally in terms of children’s exposure to climate change.
The organisation expressed deep concern over the challenges faced by the nation, emphasizing the severe impact on over 110 million Nigerian children who grapple with the harsh realities of rising temperatures, flooding, drought, and severe storms.
“This designation underscores the urgent need for concerted efforts to address the vulnerabilities faced by Nigerian children in the face of escalating climate change,” stated UNICEF, an organization dedicated to reaching the world’s most disadvantaged children across more than 190 countries and territories.
The disclosure came as part of the commemoration of World Children’s Day 2023, observed annually on November 20, which focused this year on child rights amidst the escalating climate crisis. The theme, “For every child, every right,” prompted events across the country, including discussions led by children from various regions such as Abuja, Kano, Lagos, Enugu, Sokoto, and Maiduguri.
Highlighting the alarming rate of child displacement due to environmental disasters, UNICEF reported that 650,000 children were displaced between 2016 and 2021 due to floods alone.
“As one of the countries that suffers the greatest exposure to adverse climate impacts, Nigeria’s response to climate change must be swift and holistic,” said Salisu Dahiru, Director General of the National Council on Climate Change. “This response should account for the needs of vulnerable people, including children and women, at both the decision-making and implementation levels of the National Climate Change Action Plan.”
In addition, Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, stressed the significance of children’s input in shaping a sustainable and resilient future. “This celebration is a crucial platform for our children, the most affected by climate change, to voice their concerns and experiences,” said Munduate.
The event also showcased collaborative efforts between the Government, development partners, civil society organizations, and the private sector, focusing on advocacy, partnerships, and climate education.
During the celebration in Lagos, Mobolaji Ogunlende, Commissioner for the Ministry of Youth and Social Development for the State, highlighted the importance of a clean and healthy environment for children’s growth. “Lagos State’s administration takes climate change issues seriously, making it one of the key drivers in our agenda,” stated Ogunlende.
Speaking at the event, Celine Lafoucriere, Chief Field Office, UNICEF, Lagos, emphasised the need to educate children on climate change, stating, “Children are the ones who are going to suffer what we have done to our planet. We need them to mobilize behind climate action and take care of their climate.”
The event also featured a panel session discussing the significance of both private and public sectors working in synergy for a safer and greener environment. Olivia Arimokwu, Talent Acquisition Manager at IHS Towers, represented the private sector, while Ogunlende represented the government. The panel, moderated by one of the children in attendance, emphasized the importance of climate-friendly actions in both sectors.