Children and Climate Crisis: What about our Tomorrow?

Photo Credit: Photo Credit @Haki Nawiri Afrika

Climate Change Impacts -Baringo County , Kenya

Those most impacted by the climate crisis in Africa are often the ones who least have the means to cope with the crisis. Unfortunately, Africa a continent that contributes less than 4% of global warming suffers immeasurably from climate change catastrophes. These range from desert locusts, flooding, droughts, and landslides among others.

Africans also become climate-induced refugees when they have to leave their homes when families become separated during floods or conflicts brought about by competition for scarce resources. During droughts herders and farmers clash over food and water. [1]In the process of clashing, children become orphaned, and some lose their lives not to mention the fear and uncertainty of when these clashes will end.

During crises, children are often invisible, it is assumed that the adults ‘know’ best how to handle every situation. During floods, children in vulnerable communities cannot go to school because the water levels of rivers and lakes have risen or their schools have gotten submerged in water. They are forced to miss out on some classes until the water recedes and travelling becomes safer. In Kenya, flooding has rendered schools non-operational and adversely impacted the right to education for these children for example 18 primary schools submerged in Baringo County according to the Star. When children have to reach school using boats, parents/ guardians have an additional cost to pay, the cost of fuel to ensure transport to and from school.

Flooding also increased human-animal conflict. During floods, people are at more risk of attacks from hippos and crocodiles[2], because these animals come closer to people's habitats. Furthermore, when your only source of water is a lake and the lake has crocodiles, as a child tasked with fetching water in your household, you have no other option but to go to the lake. Such is the situation of Lake Baringo in Kenya’s Rift Valley where the local community depend on water from the lake for domestic purposes. This is despite the lake having too much fluoride, which has resulted to dental fluorosis ( teeth turning brown) and bone problems among many locals. Furthermore, dental fluorosis has implications for self-esteem where research shows that children with brown or spotted teeth may lack self-confidence and this may affect their interpersonal relationships[3].

The fisherfolk community is also at risk during floods, and human-wildlife conflict in the form of attacks by crocodiles and hippos becomes more frequent as these animals get closer to homesteads. Furthermore, if a breadwinner is attacked by a hippo or a crocodile, they are rendered immobile and can no longer feed for their children. This is the case whether the attack is on a male or female family member .On a visit to Lake Baringo, you will see the expansive lake, but lurking in the lake is a lot of danger for the community. When houses get submerged during floods, the right to housing and sanitation goes to zero, hospitals too are not spared. Families are forced either to lodge with relatives in other parts of the flooded region, become displaced or relocate elsewhere until the water levels subside.

During conflicts over scarce environmental resources such as water and pasture, children find themselves in the crossfire. They get displaced or maimed in the process. Conflicts over pasture are a form of protracted conflict, taking a long time and having a toll on survivors for years to come. I once visited a household in a place called Olmoran in Laikipia in Kenya, where conflicts between herders and farmers are rife. [4]I met a widow who is a local farmer. She told the harrowing experience of losing all her livestock one night and even showed us bullet holes in her house when the livestock were being stolen. According to this lady, she was only left with one cow and the reason was that the cow was blind hence it would delay the cattle raiding when they were leaving. How traumatic is such an experience when it happens in the presence of children?. What of the women who are forced into combat due to insecurity and loss of livelihoods, who have lost their childhood and who live in communities that have become militarised?[5]

Climate change fuels protracted conflicts[6] as is the case in Baringo[7] County in Kenya. Furthermore, communities living in already harsh conditions of drought also suffer from bandit attacks[8].

Drought periods mean less food[9] for households and less farm produce for the market. Families are forced to devise means of survival. Sometimes families are forced to depend on relief food. In any food queue, one will often see women and children because they are often the most vulnerable when there is any disruption relating to food. There is no dignity in begging for food, especially if you come from a continent that has the most arable land and conducive weather for food production. Infestation by pests such as desert locusts is an element of climate change which affects their breeding process[10]. Hotter weather is more conducive for locus breeding and Africa is getting hotter. In Kenya for example, 22 counties were affected by desert locust infestation[11]. A lot of food was lost due to the locusts damaging crops. Lack of water determines whether or not schools have food. Water is needed to grow food and to cook. Droughts affect learning institutions, resulting in children dropping out of school or absenteeism[12].

When decisions are being made on matters climate change, the voices of children are mostly absent in these spaces. Who brings to international forums such as the Conference Of Parties (COPs) ,the realities of children of fisherfolk who when there is drought fish stock diminishes and their fathers have to stay longer in the lake to catch fish to bring back home. What of the experiences of Indigenous Peoples children who despite their territories being home to 80% of the world’s biodiversity, get evicted from their territories, and accused of environmental destruction.[13]?How many children from informal settlements  find their way into spaces where issues affecting them on a day-to-day basis are being negotiated, the children whose parents cannot sell vegetables by the roadside on a rainy day because the local river flooded, what of children from the coastal region whose  family livelihood risk being submerged because local mangroves are being cut at an alarming rate to pave way for beach-front housing developments?. What about the fate of the children of the farmer, whose entire crops has wilted, What of the child from a pastoralist community who due to drought had to cross the border to a neighbouring country in search of pasture.

Children have a central place in climate change decision-making and are heavily impacted. It is only fair to ensure their voices and experiences become part and parcel of decisions because children are the future. It is only morally right that  African governments respond to the plight to children when it comes to climate change.






[5] Living by the Gun in Turkana

[6] Climate Change Mitigation Key Fight Banditry



[9] Sun and  Guns, Pastoralists Battle Drought and Insecurity





Lake Baringo floods 18 schools causing massive destruction (

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