2022 Pakistan Floods
There are currently around 10 million children who require immediate support after the destruction caused by the floods in Pakistan. The floods have been reported as the most severe in Pakistan’s recent history, with global warming holding responsibility for the worsened effects. With more heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the planet has warmed. Therefore, along with extreme heatwaves, more water has evaporated from the oceans and the hotter air holds more of this moisture. This meant that when the monsoon season hit Pakistan, the downpour was far more intense and catastrophic than in previous years.
The floods have left 1,700 people dead and hundreds of thousands of homes, facilities, and infrastructure destroyed. Now that the floodwaters have begun to recede, there is a priority focus on the impacts of the floods on the health and safety of children.
The floods have caused damage to approximately 80% of the country’s crops, and with the submerged land unable to grow new crops, there are threats of a food crisis. Road damages by the floods have also caused disruption in transporting and accessing food, creating further threats of food insecurity.
Prior to the floods, Pakistan already had high rates of undernourishment within the population, with 44% of children under 5 years old showing signs of stunting. The direct impacts of food insecurity, including malnutrition and poor health, have already been seen in the aftermath of the floods. However, the indirect impacts on child health are often forgotten. With families unable to afford food, they are resorting to sending their children out to work and, in some cases, marrying off their children. As it is often the daughters of the family who are forced into child marriage, the future effects of climate change-related natural disasters are bound to have a disproportionate impact on girls. This poses a great obstacle in achieving gender equality worldwide as gendered traditions and stereotypes will continue in times of desperation, such as this flood.
Amidst the presence of COVID-19, which continues to spread, the flood has caused further health issues for children, including malaria, dengue fever, typhoid, diarrhea, and painful skin conditions. Additionally, as the crisis continues, the mental health of children continues to worsen.
The prevalence of the disease has increased due to the easy transmission of water-borne diseases in the current climate. The stagnant water in flooded areas of land has also created a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, responsible for the spread of malaria and dengue fever. The destruction of hospitals and the overwhelmed healthcare system means that there are not enough supplies, especially for remote communities that are currently only accessible by boat, which is also in shortage.
Food insecurity has led to widespread severe acute malnourishment and has been seen in more than 1 in 9 children. The effects will already impact newborns too, as malnourished pregnant mothers are at a high risk of giving birth to low birthweight babies. A vicious cycle prevails, as malnourished individuals are weaker and unable to work as efficiently to provide for their families. Therefore, the risk of developing a weakened immune system heightens, along with the likelihood of disease infection.
Pakistan was amongst some of the world’s longest school closures during the pandemic. The floods have now led to approximately 2 million children being unable to access school, causing further impact and disruption to their education.
Not only are schools vital for children to develop their learning for further education and job opportunities, but they also provide them with a safe space for psychosocial support, reliable nutrition, and immunizations. It is expected that it will take around two or three months for the floods to fully subside since only the roofs of schools are only starting to show. In the meantime, children are more vulnerable to child trafficking and forced marriages. With floods predicted to only worsen as climate change continues, without greater knowledge and awareness of child rights, more children will be exposed to exploitation.
How You Can Help
To support those affected by the floods in Pakistan, there are several appeals collecting money to provide food, health supplies, and safety.
This article focuses on Pakistan, but climate change is affecting all countries worldwide. Stopping climate change is one of the greatest issues of our time and it may seem like an overwhelming issue to tackle. However, you can do your part in several small ways, such as using reusable containers and shopping sustainably, to name just a few. Find some more information on what you can do about climate change here and take the time to do your own research.
To reduce the disproportionate impact of climate change on children, there is a need to increase widespread awareness of child rights. This way, children are only impacted by extreme weather in the short-term, rather than facing the long-term mental and physical impacts of child labor, child marriage, and child exploitation. This is best done through education and advocacy. By teaching yourself and others about child rights, the conversation around it becomes more open and less taboo. This can lead to greater activism for child rights and the implementation of protection policies for children.
– Cheryl Li
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