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Experts: Children Not Spared Effects of Climate Change

FILE - А boy is seen eating dry couscous in the village of Goudoude Diobe, in the Matam region of northeastern Senegal.
FILE - А boy is seen eating dry couscous in the village of Goudoude Diobe, in the Matam region of northeastern Senegal.

Childhood experts say children are not spared from the effects of climate change. On the contrary, they are especially impacted by food scarcity and disease brought about by global warming, a U.S. pediatric group says.

Young children need adequate nutrition to grow. They cannot get enough when crops wither in excessive heat, as water sources become scarce. The nutrient value of key food crops, including wheat, rice and barley, also declines.

"Children in developing countries, where they are already at risk of malnutrition, are at particularly high risk,” says Dr. Samantha Ahdoot in a policy statement for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Ahdoot warns children face harm from climate change. This is the second time in eight years the group has sounded the alarm.

“The World Health Organization this year determined that compared to a future with no climate change, an additional 95,000 child deaths due to malnutrition and an additional 7.5 million moderate to severely growth-stunted children are projected for the year 2030," Ahdoot says.

Youngsters are also more vulnerable to heat exhaustion and stroke. Mortality caused by elevated temperatures is expected to rise by 5.5 percent for female children and 7.8 percent for males by the end of this century.

The frequency of disease is also expected to climb, as disease-carrying mosquitoes and parasites thrive in warming temperatures, increasing malaria, dengue fever, Chikungunya, and diarrheal illnesses.

Ahdoot says children are at particular risk as a result of rising global temperatures.

“Children’s unique needs place them at risk of injury or death and loss of or separation from caregivers, as well as mental health consequences due to severe weather events. For example, after Hurricane Katrina, more than 5,000 children were separated from their families and 163,000 children were displaced by the hurricane, either temporarily or permanently,” she said.

Ahdoot says the policy statement, published in "Pediatrics," the academy's flagship magazine, was not written to coincide with the December World Climate Summit in Paris.

Rather, she says, the statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics reflects the findings of thousands of studies of the health effects of global warming on children.