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Girls likely to be stunted due to climate change

By Brenda Abeine

Added 25th July 2017 09:28 AM

Climate change continues to be high on agenda in developing Uganda

Climate change continues to be high on agenda in developing Uganda

Girls born in urban areas will suffer the most, with close to 10 percent of them also likely to get stunted (compared to boys) after onset of adverse climate change shocks which will make it complicated for the children to access basic amenities including food and shelter — a report said yesterday.

Ordinarily, boys will likely experience deficiencies in their development, but a report by UNICEF and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics showed girls below five years through adolescence were more at risk when disasters triggered by floods, drought, and the subsequent poverty and ‘lawlessness' struck.

"Girls are more vulnerable in adversity, and the lack of shelter and food and insufficient (protection) because of climate change shocks will likely cause heavy tolls on them, with some not able to fully develop their cognitive capabilities," Dr. Diego Angemi, the Chief of Social Policy and Advocacy at UNICEF Uganda, said at the reading of the report findings at Statistics House in Kampala.

Climate change continues to be high on agenda in developing Uganda, but a seemingly lack of leadership and poor implementation of interventions to mitigate effects is worsening the rapid weather variations.

The report released yesterday predicted temperatures in the country to rise by an "unprecedented" 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next 20 years and by up to 4.3 degrees Celsius by the year 2080, which will surge warming levels.

"We know what to do. We all have a responsibility to stop climate change and its effects. We need to stop razing forest covers, constructing houses in wetlands because we think we are untouchable," Martin Awori, from the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness said.

Titled Emerging Global Challenges: Climate Related Hazards and Urbanization — Protecting Uganda's Children, the report identifies climate change and urbanization as major challenges that will have an increasingly significant impact on the well-being of children in Uganda, especially the poorest, over the coming decades.

Climate related crop failure and income loss are likely to affect food supplies as well as cause reduced spending on food and other items, which will jeopardize children's nutritional status, cognitive capacity, health and well-being, the report said.

More pronounced climate variability will also have an increasingly significant effect on children's education. For example, when coping with the aftermath of an extreme weather event or shock like a drought, flood, or landslide, school drop-outs are more likely.

A separate study this month predicted tough times ahead and suggested Uganda might forfeit close to sh21trillion annually in next five years because of infrastructural and other losses in key sectors if country does not take steps to protect fragile ecosystems.

Regarding the trend of people moving from rural to urban areas, the report notes that urbanization is occurring at a rapid rate of over five percent per year in the country. 

By 2035, it is estimated that 30 percent of Uganda's population will be urban dwellers - up from 20 per cent today - with a high proportion of them being children and youth.

While children living in urban areas are generally considered better off than their rural counterparts - with greater access to services and their parents having more diverse income-generating opportunities - they are also particularly vulnerable to homelessness, exploitation and abuse. 

In fact, while one percent of households in Kampala live below the poverty line, in some parishes in Kampala as many as 14 percent of children live in poor households.  

Urban dwelling therefore poses a number of threats to adolescents and youth from poorer households, especially girls and young women, who are at particular risk of sexual violence and HIV/AIDS, the report said. 

Gideon Badagawa, the Executive Director at the Private Sector Foundation Uganda, said there needed to be better urban planning enactments so "we avoid shanty homes that don't protect children's rights." 

"You have a shack of a house where girls witness multiple men ‘sleep' with their mother, what do you expect?" he said. "Such children are already vulnerable. With increased poverty (because of climate change) it can only get worse." 

The executive director said the country needed to strengthen the family and child protection unit to have "homes" for most vulnerable children.  

The report called for urban centred social protection policies to cater for the great inequalities and highly vulnerable members of society observed in urban centres. 

It recommended it was important to closely monitor weather variation to control disease outbreaks associated with extreme meteorological conditions.

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