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The disruption and harm caused by global climate change is expected to be even more pronounced in developing countries, and children in those countries could face myriad risks, but there are actions that can be taken now to reduce those risks. A new paper authored by Rema Hanna, the Jeffrey Cheah Professor of South-East Asia Studies at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), identifies several possible policy solutions that can ameliorate the impact of climate change on the health and safety of children living in poor countries.
“Most people in developing countries still depend primarily on agriculture as a source of income, and so anything that reduces crop yields—such as excessive heat or rain—is likely to directly threaten the livelihoods of developing-country families and their ability to feed their children. Poor nutrition and economic disruption are likely to lower children’s scholastic achievement or even keep them out of school altogether,” Hanna writes.
“Children in developing countries also face more-severe threats from both air and water pollution; from infectious and parasitic diseases carried by insects or contaminated water; and from possible displacement, migration, and violence triggered by climate change.”
Tempering those effects will be a challenge, but quite possible, Hanna states.
“Other than the most obvious way to slow down and reduce the severity of climate change worldwide—reducing our carbon output—it is well worth our collective efforts to think about how to design and fund policies that can shield children from climate change’s effects—particularly children in developing nations, who may be the most vulnerable,” Hanna argues. “Such policies might include developing new technologies to expand electrification, inventing more-weather-resistant crops, improving access to clean water, increasing foreign aid during disasters, and offering more assistance to help poor countries expand their safety net programs.”
Hanna claims that the short-term investment in programs and policies designed to help soften the blow from climate change upon vulnerable families in poor countries will also result in long-term economic and social benefits.
Rema Hanna, Jeffrey Cheah Professor of South-East Asia Studies
Photo credit: Martha Stewart