URGENT ACTION NEEDED! Climate change lays devastating impact on women, children: Report

An internal study has revealed that women and children bear the brunt of the climatic disasters including floods, cyclones, and droughts.

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New Delhi: Climatic catastrophes are impacting the world at an unprecedented rate and the most at the receiving end are women and children. Reports have revealed that Indian states are vulnerable to climatic disasters out of which 183 districts were vulnerable to hydrometeorological disasters such as cyclones, and floods, while around 349 of them witnessed droughts. It has shown the interrelation between climate change and vulnerable groups including women and children that are most impacted by the same.

What does the report reveals?

An internal study "How does climate change impact women and children across agro-ecological zones in India- a scoping study", commissioned by the Ministry of Women and Child Development has revealed that women and children bear the brunt of the climatic disasters including floods, cyclones, and droughts. Indian states particularly Bihar, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, and Telangana have been impacted the most by the changing climatic scenario of the nation.

Children exposed to climatic hazards are more likely to be stunted, underweight, and more vulnerable to early pregnancies, as per the report. It further highlighted that 70% of the Indian districts are at a high risk of floods, droughts, and cyclones and indicators to study the overall impact of these disasters on the vulnerable groups are very stark which makes it difficult to have a complete assessment of the impact. 

These states are most impacted

The study highlighted certain spatial hotspots where high exposure to hydrometeorological disasters coexisted with a high prevalence of poor health conditions including stunting, underweight and social atrocities like child marriages and domestic violence. Northern states including parts of Uttar Pradesh are hotspots for stunting, and northern Maharashtra and south Madhya Pradesh are hotspots for underweight children. Stronger health systems of some states including that of parts of the coastal belt of Odisha have higher exposure to hydrometeorological disasters but have performed across various parameters.

Here is what the chairperson said

Soumya Swaminathan, chairperson, of M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), and former chief scientist of the World Health Organization said that the issue of climate change's impact on women and children is often overlooked in policy formulation. Her statement further throws light on the ever-growing issue of climate change and the need for policy formulations especially concerning issues around the protection of women and children from climatic catastrophes. 

Studies on heatwaves impact scarce

The report has recommended to the ministry that there exists a gap in evidence, to completely understand differential factors behind children's vulnerability to heatwaves. There is an urgent need to pay attention to deaths due to heat and prepare action plans to tackle the effects of heat waves on vulnerable groups. Only concerted efforts CAN help deal with the problems associated with climate change and its indelible impact on vulnerable groups including women and children.