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The United Nations says women, especially in less developed countries, are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The U.N. Population Fund delivered the warning in its annual report issued Wednesday in South Africa.
The Africa director of the U.N. Population Fund, Bunmi Makinwa, told reporters Wednesday in Port Elizabeth women are especially susceptible to the consequences of climate change, which include water and food insecurity, disease and population migration.
"Women are responsible for keeping families," said Makinwa. "They are the ones in many African countries who go to fetch water, fetch wood for families. They make decisions on food and the availability of food. As climate changes occur, these abilities of women to meet the needs of families are affected."
He noted there are 20 million unwanted pregnancies in the world each year. But about one-half of the women in Africa who would like to limit the size of their families do not have that choice. He says this is because they do not have access to information on family planning or products to control family size.
"If this [choice] is brought about either through family planning or through just improving the rights of women to make decisions it will have a major impact on the environment," he said.
Makinwa says education programs for women on practices that contribute to climate change would also help. But more important, he says, is to include women in the debate and policy making.
"Women have the potential that we are not using to contribute, to mitigate the effects of climate change. And therefore women should be part of the discussion, should be involved in the discussion and be involved in the decision making on climate change issues," he said.
The Population Fund says the purpose of its annual reports is to sensitize people on the priority issues affecting global population and mobilize support to change attitudes and behavior.