Around 76% of children aged 17 and under in South Asia are exposed to severely high temperatures for several months per year, according to UNICEF.
About the data: On Monday, UNICEF issued a news release stating that around 460 million children — 3 in 4 children in South Asia — face extremely high temperatures of over 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) for 83 or more days every year. In comparison, only one in three children (32%) globally encounter the same. UNICEF analyzed the latest data available, which was recorded in 2020.
The United Nations agency also shared that around 28% of children in South Asia are exposed to 4.5 or more heat waves per year, according to the data.
More heat waves: Experts have declared that longer and more recurrent heat waves will occur in the future mostly due to climate change.
Countries in South Asia, including Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, are “not the hottest in the world right now but the heat here brings life-threatening risks for millions of vulnerable children,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF regional director for South Asia. “We are particularly concerned about babies, toddlers, malnourished children and pregnant women as they are most vulnerable to heat strokes and other serious effects.”
Possible symptoms: Children who face severe heat waves may experience organ failure, higher body temperature, cramps, confusion, dehydration and fainting. Meanwhile, heat waves may cause poor mental development in infants and early contractions, seizures, high blood pressure, hypertension and stillbirths in pregnant women, among other symptoms.
Most vulnerable: According to UNICEF, the most vulnerable women, adolescents and children are those who “pay the highest price for extreme weather events.”
“Young children simply cannot handle the heat,” Wijesekera noted. “Unless we act now, these children will continue to bear the brunt of more frequent and more severe heatwaves [sic] in the coming years, for no fault of theirs.”