8,200,000 Children From Sub-Sahara Africa Displaced Due to Extreme Weather

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Children have the right to a whole and healthy life, including the right to food and an education, but climate change has been shown to put these rights at risk. Children and young people worldwide live on the frontlines of climate catastrophe despite contributing the least to it. The climate crisis is the most severe threat to children’s rights and their realisation across borders and generations.

According to a report by UNICEF released early this month, the effects of storms, floods, fires, and drought made worse by climate change resulted in the displacement of an average of over 43 million children throughout the six years. The report also predicts that 113 million children will be displaced over the next 30 years if the current climate persists.

Based on absolute numbers, three countries dominate the results: the Philippines, India, and China.

This assessment conducted by Unicef and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) found that up to 20,000 children are displaced per day all around the globe. Further findings show that floods and storms accounted for 95% of all recorded child displacements between 2016 and 2021 were caused by storms and floods. Drought and wildfires forced the remaining children—more than 2 million—to flee their homes.


According to the report by UNICEF, the number of children displaced in Sub-Saharan Africa between 2016 and 2021 because of the weather is 8,200,000. This figure accounts for 19% of all weather-related displaced children worldwide. While in the Middle East and North Africa, 490,00 children were displaced, representing 1.1%.

July was the warmest month on record. In North Africa, high temperatures in Tunisia that reached over 50C that July prompted the state-owned energy provider STEG to implement planned power outages lasting anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to protect the performance of the electricity network, each time targeting a different region.

According to Africa News, some were compelled to leave their homes at night and sleep in tents set up on the beach because of the extreme temperatures. This year’s drought depleted water supplies and forced water supply cuts in some Tunisian regions.

Algeria experienced catastrophic heatwaves and wildfires that killed 34 people and forced over 1,500 people east of the capital, Algiers, to flee their homes. The wildfires also destroyed residences and turned extensive forest areas into burnt wastelands. The wildfires burned for days, primarily across the mountain forests of the Kabylia region on the Mediterranean coast, exacerbated by winds during the scorching summer heat.

The winds caused the fire to spread to pine forests along Tunisia’s border with Algeria, forcing at least 300 people to flee by boat and land.

According to a report by the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC), the disaster affected 6000 families in Algeria, their crops and livestock, leaving families displaced and vulnerable. Displaced and vulnerable families mean displaced and vulnerable children.

The Horn of Africa countries have seen the highest proportion of their child population displaced. South Sudan and Somalia saw the highest number of child displacements from floods about the size of their respective child populations, accounting for approximately 12% in South Sudan and 11% in Somalia. Both countries carry out and report fewer preemptive evacuations, implying that children in both countries may be even more sensitive to displacement risk.

Over half of the 1.3 million internal child displacement cases reported across 15 countries are located in the Horn of Africa, whereby there were 730,000 in Somalia and 340,000 in Ethiopia. At the same time, 3,800 children in East Africa’s Burundi were displaced due to drought.

Of the ten countries in the world, Eastern Africa’s Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, and Ethiopia had the highest number of displaced children due to flooding.

Mozambique, the only country in Eastern Africa, was listed among the top ten nations where storms have caused child displacement. 410,000 children were displaced in  Mozambique, which is frequently hit by cyclones, has children who were displaced due t

Risks of Child Displacement

Children’s climate-related dangers can be exacerbated by displacement. Children may be isolated from their parents or caretakers in the aftermath of a disaster, increasing their risk of exploitation, child trafficking, and abuse. Due to displacement, children may be exposed to starvation, disease, and poor immunisation.

With so many children displaced due to extreme weather and expectations that the number will rise if the climate continues, available evacuation shelters in climate-vulnerable places may be. Overcrowding is a risk factor in and of itself, as it can induce crowd stampedes and trampling, resulting in significant injuries or fatalities and a shortage of supplies.

Way Forward

One of the issues raised in the report was the rarity of pre-emptive evacuations in drought situations, implying that most of these displacements occurred without early warnings and efforts to mitigate the effects of displacement. This lack of pre-emptive evacuations can be attributed to inadequate monitoring systems and limited resources for timely evacuations.

Where Africa is concerned, more adequate monitoring systems, timely warning systems, and proactive actions are needed to reduce vulnerability to disasters, especially climate-related ones. Regional collaboration is critical for leveraging resources and expertise to address cross-national concerns.

In addition, regional collaboration also facilitates the sharing of best practices and lessons learned, allowing countries to learn from each other’s experiences and improve their disaster management strategies. Furthermore, it promotes a coordinated response to disasters, ensuring that resources are allocated efficiently and effectively across the region.

Children and young people must be prioritised by the actions proposed in the report to improve outcomes for children and young people at risk of future displacement. They must also be prepared to live in a changing climate by strengthening their adaptive capacities and resilience and enabling engagement.

Our disaster response methods should also include child-critical services that are shock-responsive, portable, and inclusive, including for children who have already been displaced. These child-critical services should focus on immediate needs such as shelter, food, and healthcare and address the long-term developmental needs of children affected by displacement.

But the most important thing is to take more effective steps to make the earth healthier and reduce emissions for future generations. This includes investing in renewable energy sources, implementing sustainable practices in industries, and promoting green transportation options.

Additionally, educating and raising awareness about the importance of environmental conservation among children and youth is crucial to ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

Find and read more about Climate change analysis here.

A writer and a champion of change and sustainable development. She writes on climate change, gender justice and equality, human rights, education, Tanzania and the wider region of Eastern Africa.

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