The total number of children in Kenya displaced within the country by climate-induced disasters increased sevenfold last year, said Save the Children, as policymakers meet this week in Nairobi to discuss solutions to the climate crisis at the Africa Climate Summit.
Based on analysis of data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, at least 187,000 children in Kenya were left displaced within the country by climate shocks at the end of 2022, compared to 27,000 children who were displaced by similar crises in 2021. Some of these children were displaced multiple times, while others only once, but all remained displaced from home at the end of the year, living in camps, with extended family, or other temporary arrangements.
The report indicates that the number could be much higher, as these figures are only from four counties (Garissa, Isiolo, Marsabit, and Turkana).
“The impact of climate shocks on children is very worrying. When children lose their homes they lose almost everything: their access to healthcare, education, food, and safety. They also lose the building blocks for mental and emotional stability and wellbeing, like a sense of routine, their friends, and the right to play,” said Yvonne Arunga, Save the Children’s Country Director for Kenya and Madagascar.
Regionally, the number of new internal displacements throughout the year across sub-Saharan Africa in 2022 due to such disasters was three times higher than the previous year, with 7.4 million new displacements during 2022 compared to 2.6 million in 2021. This figure counts the times people were displaced – sometimes multiple times for one individual – even if they were able to return home by the end of the year.
This is the highest annual number of new displacements from climate disasters ever reported for the region, as the impacts of consecutive climate shocks have begun to sink in and both the resilience of the land and the coping mechanisms of communities become exhausted.
These figures lay bare the stark reality that the rights of children in Kenya and across the region are being eroded at an alarming rate by the impacts of the climate crisis, said Save the Children. Meanwhile, countries on the continent have contributed the least to the crisis, with the smallest share of global greenhouse gas emissions of all the world’s regions.
“These figures are enough to bring anyone to a standstill and hopefully will spur leaders at Africa Climate Week to wake up to the experiences of children across the region, acknowledge that the climate crisis is having a disastrous impact on their lives, and act urgently to factor in children’s needs and rights into the much-needed response,” said Yvonne.
With the El Niño weather pattern taking hold, causing even more extreme weather events and pushing up global temperatures further, this figure will likely increase this year, said the child rights agency.
In the Horn of Africa, El Niño is historically associated with above-average rain during the October to December rainy season. As has been evidenced by rains in recent months, rains on the parched ground following almost three years of drought bring further risks of flooding, displacement, food shortages, and disease. Meanwhile, the effects of the exceptionally strong El Niño in 2015-2016 caused drought over large parts of southern Africa, which could happen again this time.
According to a report earlier this year by the Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative, Save the Children, and partners, just 2.4% of key global climate funds can be classified as supporting child-responsive activities, despite more than a billion children being at extremely high risk of the impacts of the climate crisis.
“We need to urgently scale up climate finance and support adaptation measures that protect children from the worst effects of climate change. We must also ensure that children have access to essential services such as education and healthcare, regardless of their displacement status,” concluded Yvonne.
Save the Children’s global climate change programming work includes supporting children and their communities in preventing, preparing for, and recovering from climate disasters and supporting global leaders to protect children in emergencies. Save the Children is also actively monitoring forecasts and potential risks across regions and working with partners to help communities anticipate, prepare for, and prevent the worst possible impacts.