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3 in 4 children in South Asia exposed to extreme heat, UNICEF warns

The UN International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that three-quarters of children in South Asia, including Afghanistan, are facing extremely high temperatures—the highest level worldwide.

In a press release on Monday, UNICEF stated that about 460 million children are exposed to extreme heat in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, and Pakistan, compared to a third of children globally.

UNICEF warned that children in South Asia are at “extremely high risk” of the impacts of climate change, defining extremely high temperatures as 83 or more days in a year over 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit).

“With the world at a boiling point, the data clearly show that the lives and well-being of millions of children across South Asia are increasingly threatened by heat waves and high temperatures.” Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, said.

“Young children simply cannot handle the heat,” Wijesekera stressed, adding “Unless we act now, these children will continue to bear the brunt of more frequent and more severe heatwaves in the coming years, for no fault of theirs.”

According to the UN, July 2023 was the hottest month ever recorded globally, raising further concerns about a future where children, including those living in South Asia, are expected to face more frequent and severe heatwaves, largely due to climate change.

Earlier, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the Earth has moved into an “era of global boiling”.

“The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived,” said Guterres, urging immediate and bold action to cut planet-heating emissions.

UNICEF suggests that education, awareness, and preparedness are key to responding to the global warming crisis, calling on frontline workers, parents, families, caregivers, and local authorities to take preventive measures and protect children from extreme weather events.