Human Settlements Discussion Paper – Climate Change 2

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Climate Change and Urban Children
Impacts and Implications for Adaptation

in Low and Middle Income Countries

Sheridan Bartlett

Human Settlements Discussion Paper – Climate Change 2

This was prepared as a background paper for the work on Adapting Urban Centres to Climate Change in Low and Middle-income Nations with a strong pro-poor focus that IIED’s Human Settlements Group is undertaking for the World Bank.

Dr. Sheridan Bartlett works primarily in Asia on issues pertaining to children and their environments, providing support to various organizations, currently including Save the Children, SPARC, and the Aga Khan Foundation. She is an Associate Fellow in the Human Settlements Group at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and a Research Associate at CERG (the Children’s Environments Research Group at The Graduate Center, City University of New York). She has publications on a range of topics as they relate to children (including disaster relief, local governance, the conflict in Nepal, donor assistance, injury and environmental rights), and was principal author of Cities for Children: Children's Rights, Poverty and Urban Management, Earthscan, London, 1999. She is on the Editorial Board of the international journal Environment and Urbanization and is an associate editor of the journal Children, Youth and Environments.

E-mail address:


NB This is a draft paper; the final version will be published as an IIED Human Settlements Discussion Paper in mid 2008 and be available at for downloading, at no charge. A shorter version of this paper will be published in the October 2008 issue of Environment and Urbanization.



a. Climate change and children

b. Why a concern for urban children?

c. An adaptation agenda with children in mind

a) Risk factors and protective factors

b) Children’s disproportionate vulnerability to the impacts of climate change

c) Children as active agents


a. Health and survival

Mortality related to extreme weather events

Water and sanitation-related illnesses

Malaria and other vector-borne and infectious diseases

Respiratory illness

Heat stress



The quality of care

b) Learning and competence

How health is related to learning

Children’s access to supportive physical and social environments

Formal supports for learning and development

c) Coping with adversity: psychological well being and social support

Factors influencing children’s capacity to cope

Trauma in children – a contentious area

Separation from family

Family stress and tensions

The breakdown of social norms and routines in the aftermath of disaster

Children’s resilience

d) Household coping strategies in difficult times

e) The need for more information

  1. Some basic guidelines for adaptation “actors”

  2. Protection: reducing the longer term risks with children in mind

Supporting children’s resilience through preventive attention to health and nutrition

Strengthening families’ capacity to cope as part of risk reduction

Maintaining and improving opportunities for children’s activities and routines

Respecting children’s capacity for active involvement

b) Preparing for extreme weather events

Health and safety as a focus for preparation

Family and community coping strategies in the course of disaster preparedness

Children’s routines as part of preparedness

Involving children in disaster preparation

c) Responding to immediate losses, costs and threats following extreme weather events

Health, safety, nutrition after extreme events

Strengthening families’ immediate capacity to cope

Restoring children’s activities and routines

Respecting children’s capacity for active involvement in the aftermath of crisis

d) Adapting to impacts and losses, and rebuilding to reduce future risks

Rebuilding with children’s health and safety in mind

Rebuilding in ways that strengthen family and community

Considering children’s routines and activities

Children’s active involvement in planning – along with adults


Table 1: Some likely impacts of climate change

Table 2: Modalities and mechanisms by which children may be more susceptible to climate change than adults

Table 3: Under-five and crude mortality rates in a range of countries

Table 4: Percentage of the total burden of injury experienced

by children and young adults (in DALYs*)


Box 1: A possible scenario in one African city

Box 2: Flood fatalities in Nepal: highest for children

Box 3 : The coping strategies of the urban poor in Bangladesh during the 1998 floods

Box 4: Preventing and treating malaria in children in Kampala, Uganda

Box 5: Keeping children clean in Banshighat

Box 6: Conditions in emergency barracks in Aceh, Indonesia 10 months after the 2004 tsunami

Box 7: Activities engaged in by children in Indonesia after the tsunami

Box 8: Support for children after a disaster: advice from the Bernard van Leer Foundation

Box 9: Recommendations for mental and social health following disasters based on the Sphere minimum standards

Box 10: Community toilets as common space

Box 11: Children bring their perspective to tough decisions on a practical house design

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