“We need to do better” – IFRC report reveals gaps in child protection during climate related disasters

Climate related disasters increase the risk of violence, abuse and exploitation against children, pose risks to their mental health, and often lead to challenges in accessing information.

Climate related disasters increase the risk of violence, abuse and exploitation against children, pose risks to their mental health, and often lead to challenges in accessing information.

Photo: IFRC

Kingston, Jamaica – November 19, 2021. Adolescents overwhelmingly feel that they do not have the information needed to be safe from potential violence, abuse, and exploitation in climate related disasters. This is one of the main findings of “We Need to Do Better: Climate Related Disasters, Child Protection and Localizing Action in the Caribbean,” a recent study conducted by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

The report has revealed that even though climate related disasters affect each person in the region, children are particularly at risk. They make up a large portion of the population of the Caribbean and are most vulnerable to encountering violence, abuse, and exploitation in disaster settings, while systems to protect them do not always work. The study also highlights that there are no specific laws in place to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation when disasters happen.

Gurvinder Singh, IFRC’s Child Protection Senior Advisor and one of the authors of the report, said:

“While children potentially have great leadership and innovation capabilities, unfortunately, their voices are rarely being sought out or heard. Furthermore, there is a huge deficit in meaningful opportunities for children to be engaged in decisions that affect them. This is especially prominent in the stages of preparing for and responding to disasters. Adolescents believe that even if they do participate, their opinions may not be taken seriously by adults.”

By putting the voices, perspectives, and ideas of children at the forefront, the report seeks to understand the generally unexplored relationships between climate related disasters and children’s concerns around violence, abuse, exploitation, and mental health challenges. It also sends a warning to governments and civic organisations to play a more active role in the promotion of and respect for the rights of the child, especially with regards to the issue of child abuse and the need for urgent effective prevention programmes.

Ariel Kestens, IFRC’s Head of Delegation for the Dutch-and English-speaking Caribbean, said:

“It is critical that governments enhance domestic laws, invest in child protection systems, improve local coordination, train local responders, include protection and climate change in school curriculum, and collect sex-, age- and disability-disaggregated data in disaster responses. The IFRC Network across the Caribbean stands ready to support them to continue striving to meet the best interests of each child affected by more and more frequent, and destructive climate related disasters.”

The report also recommends practical actions for the humanitarian sector, such as designing child-friendly communications, implementing community feedback mechanisms, including child protection in anticipatory action, integrating child protection across preparedness, assessments and planning, and creating spaces for children and adults to engage, support one another and find viable solutions to protection risks.

The study was based on discussions and an online survey with 198 adolescents ages 14-17 years in the Bahamas, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago; interviews with 30 adults from different disaster and child protection agencies, and background research. It is part of the campaign “We Need to Do Better” by the IFRC to enhance protection of children in climate related disasters.

The full report may be accessed here. The adolescent summary of the report is available here.

For more information, please contact:

In Jamaica: Trevesa DaSilva | +876 818-8575 | trevesa.dasilva@ifrc.org

In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes | + 506 8416 1771 | susana.arroyo@ifrc.org