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Children and Disasters: Understanding Impact and Enabling Agency

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Children are highly vulnerable to disasters, in part because of their particular stage of physiological and social development. Powerful forces of nature such as earthquakes, cyclones and tsunamis can have serious immediate and long-term impacts on human health, property and livelihoods, which can have devastating consequences for children and their futures. Where children and their families are already vulnerable, for example because of low income, poor housing, or high population density, the impact of these sudden events is more severe.

The frequency and intensity of weather related disasters such as floods, droughts, and cyclones appear to be increasing because of climate change. This is not only increasing the impact on the poorest and most vulnerable communities, but also creating new challenges such as rising sea levels and changing rainfall patterns and temperatures. Reducing children’s vulnerability to both sudden disasters and crises related to climate change is an essential part of child development programmes, as are strategies for adapting to climate change.

The Children in a Changing Climate coalition (CCC) have come together to conduct two research studies: first, a seven-country study of the trends in the impact of disasters on child welfare from 1999–2009; and second, an analysis of the enabling environment that supports children’s involvement in disaster risk reduction.