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Extreme heat in East Asia, Pacific putting millions of children at risk: UN | World News



According to Unicef’s projections, all of the world’s two billion children are expected to be exposed to high heat wave frequency by 2050

By Patpicha Tanakasempipat

More than 243 million children across East Asia and the Pacific are at risk of heat-related illnesses and death, as the region braces for a summer with record heat in the coming months, according to a United Nations agency. 


Warnings over more intense and frequent heat waves this summer are especially worrying in the region, as high humidity levels make it more difficult for the body to cool down naturally. As children are less able to regulate their body temperature than adults, they are vulnerable to heat-related illnesses such as chronic respiratory conditions, asthma, and cardiovascular diseases, according to United Nations Children’s Fund. 

“Children are more vulnerable than adults to the effects of climate change, and excess heat is a potentially lethal threat to them,” Debora Comini, director of Unicef’s regional office for East Asia and Pacific, said in a statement on Thursday. “We must be on high alert this summer to protect children and vulnerable communities from worsening heat waves and other climate shocks.”

The Unicef warning comes amid reports that March was the 10th consecutive month of record-breaking heat, with populations across much of the northern and southern hemispheres experiencing temperatures overshooting climate targets. 

In Southeast Asia, concerns over extreme heat have prompted authorities to issue advisories or take action. Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health urged people to take precautions against heatstrokes, after two deaths were reported this week. The Philippines suspended in-person classes in some cities across the country last week and shifted to remote learning due to heat. The Philippines’ weather agency warned earlier this year that 2024 may be one of the warmest years on record for the country. 

Parents and caregivers are urged to create cooler places for children to play at home and schools so that they can avoid being outdoors, and ensure children wear breathable clothing to help with heat regulation, Unicef said. Children displaying symptoms of heat stress should be hospitalized, the agency added. 

According to Unicef’s projections, all of the world’s two billion children are expected to be exposed to high heat wave frequency by 2050, regardless of its greenhouse gas emission scenarios. 

First Published: Apr 11 2024 | 10:45 AM IST


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