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Leaders must take action to protect children in India as country swelters through record-breaking heatwave

India is grappling with one of its worst heatwaves on record, with temperatures touching 50°C in many regions of north India and children’s health being tested to the extreme, says Save the Children (known in India as Bal Raksha Bharat).
01 June 2024

As the country grapples with increasingly severe heatwaves, the nation's most vulnerable population, its children, face significant health and developmental risks, including dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. Prolonged exposure to such high temperatures can lead to long-term health issues, says the child rights agency, affecting children’s physical and cognitive development.

Rising temperatures can also exacerbate the spread of diseases, increasing levels of malnutrition, with children from marginalized communities, who often lack access to adequate shelter, clean water, and healthcare, disproportionately affected.

The news comes as the World Health Assembly passed a landmark resolution recognising the impact that climate change has on health in Geneva last night, and ahead of the first ever meeting focused on children in global climate negotiations at the UN Bonn Climate Change Conference next week. Save the Children is calling on leaders to address these extreme weather conditions, exacerbated by the global climate crisis.
 
Sudarshan Suchi, CEO of Bal Raksha Bharat [Save the Children in India] said:

“As we face unprecedented sweltering weather conditions, our community's resilience is being tested like never before. Though summer conditions have never before required a humanitarian response, we are continuously monitoring data and the situation, and may need to treat this like a disaster. Meanwhile, across our project locations in affected regions, we are ensuring children coming to our activity centres have access to clean drinking water and umbrellas, and we will help the community navigate this challenging time.

“With high temperatures, children are particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses due to their higher body surface area relative to their weight and their bodies' slower acclimatization to temperature changes. The increasing frequency and intensity of heatwaves in India are alarming and demand immediate action. Protecting our children from the adverse effects of climate change is not just a moral imperative but a necessity for sustainable development. We must act now to safeguard the future of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

These extreme weather patterns are not isolated incidents but are directly linked to the broader global climate crisis. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, including heatwaves, will continue to rise unless immediate and concerted global action is taken.”

Save the Children calls upon the Indian government, civil society, and international community to take urgent and comprehensive measures to mitigate the impact of heatwaves on children. These include implementing advanced heatwave prediction and alert systems to prepare and protect vulnerable populations; Building and upgrading infrastructure to withstand extreme weather conditions, including heat-resistant school buildings and community centres; and advocating for stronger international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support climate adaptation and mitigation efforts in developing countries.
 
Save the Children hopes that the expert dialogue on children and climate change at the UN Bonn Climate Change Conference on 4 June will lead to a common understanding of the unique, disproportionate impacts of climate change on children and unlock more investment for and action towards climate policy solutions aimed specifically at children.
 
ENDS

MEDIA CONTACT: Joshua Mcdonald on 0478010972 or media.team@savethechildren.org.au.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

About Bal Raksha Bharat

Bal Raksha Bharat, also known as Save the Children India, is dedicated to improving the lives of children through education, healthcare, and protection. With a focus on ensuring that every child has the opportunity to thrive, the organization works tirelessly to address the root causes of child poverty and vulnerability.

Stay up to date on how Save the Children is creating a world where every child has a safe and happy childhood