Africa: Natural Disasters Double Likelihood of Child Poverty - Study

Children in some disaster-prone regions are twice as likely to be living in chronic poverty, according to new research.

A report from the London-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI) looks at the impact of natural disasters across different stages of a child’s life in India and Kenya - and warns that climate change is making such incidents more frequent and more intense

The research focused on the links between natural disasters and child well-being in three drought-prone counties in Kenya: Bungoma, Kakamega and Turkana, between 2000 and 2014.

The researchers also conducted case studies in India’s Bihar state, where devastating floods have become more common in recent years.

“Usually after a disaster we hear about the number of people who’ve died or economic losses, but we don’t tend to hear about what the longer-term impacts of the disaster are. And this research is really exciting because it looks at the impact of disasters and climate change on child well-being and longer-term development outcomes,” report co-author Emma Lovell told VOA.

The researchers analyzed the impact of natural disasters on children and adolescents at different stages of life.

“Disasters are more likely to affect the most vulnerable groups. And disasters can also widen existing inequalities within society. So if I give an example, after a disaster if a child may be pulled out of school in order to help the family and household, this may have an impact on their educational achievement, which, longer term, may then influence their employment opportunities,” says Lovell.

In India’s Bihar state, the researchers found that chronically poor mothers had fewer prenatal visits in disaster-prone areas than elsewhere. The prevalence of diarrhea was also higher; while fewer poor adolescents were enrolled in school where natural disasters were common.

“It’s essential that governments and global actors help to promote systems and services that can support people in these events,” says Lovell.

The report's authors urge governments and aid agencies to build resilience against natural disasters and to take into account the impact on children in the poorest and most vulnerable populations.

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