Three-quarters of children in South Asia face extreme heat: UN

The UN warns children in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives and Pakistan are at "extremely high risk" of the impacts of climate change

August 07, 2023 02:50 pm | Updated 02:50 pm IST

A man walks across an almost dried-up bed of river Yamuna amid hot weather in New Delhi, India, May 2, 2022. In the past 30 days, nearly 5,000 heat and rainfall records have been broken or tied in the United States and more than 10,000 records set globally, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Since 2000, the U.S. is setting about twice as many heat records as cold.

A man walks across an almost dried-up bed of river Yamuna amid hot weather in New Delhi, India, May 2, 2022. In the past 30 days, nearly 5,000 heat and rainfall records have been broken or tied in the United States and more than 10,000 records set globally, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Since 2000, the U.S. is setting about twice as many heat records as cold. | Photo Credit: AP

Three-quarters of children in South Asia are already facing dangerously high temperatures, the highest level worldwide, as the impact of climate change grows, the United Nations warned Monday.

About 460 million children are exposed to extreme heat in South Asia, or 76% of children, compared to a third of children globally, the United Nations children's agency said.

"With the world at global boiling, the data clearly show that the lives and well-being of millions of children across South Asia are increasingly threatened by heat waves and high temperatures," said Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia.

The UN warns children in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives and Pakistan are at "extremely high risk" of the impacts of climate change, defining extreme high temperatures as 83 or more days in a year over 35 degree Celsius (95 degree Fahrenheit).

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Children cannot adapt as quickly to temperature changes, and are not able to remove excess heat from their bodies.

"Young children simply cannot handle the heat," added Wijesekera. "Unless we act now, these children will continue to bear the brunt of more frequent and more severe heatwaves in the coming years."

About 1.2 degrees Celsius of global warming since the late 1800s, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, has made heatwaves hotter, longer and more frequent, as well as intensifying other weather extremes such as storms and floods.

July was the hottest month ever recorded globally, with searing heat intensified by global warming affecting tens of millions of people in parts of Europe, Asia and North America.

Scientists say the world will need to adapt to the heat and other impacts already caused by emissions -- and that carbon pollution must be slashed dramatically this decade to avoid worse in the future.

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