Malaysian Children’s Health, Adversely Affected By Climate Change

Climate change and environmental pollution can affect the healthy growth, development and well-being of children in Malaysia, according to a study conducted by two local universities in collaboration with Unicef ​​Malaysia.

Highlighting the important link between climate change and environmental pollution as well as the health and well-being of children in Malaysia, the study found that children often do the worst in climate and weather-related disasters such as floods, droughts, and forest fires because of their tolerance levels. the lower. to climate and environmental hazards.

Despite its impact, “children are constantly monitored in the design and content of climate policies and processes”.

Meanwhile, in Unicef’s first climate risk index launched recently-the state-run Children’s Climate Risk Index based on children exposed to climate and environmental impacts-Malaysia ranked 61st in the list of countries lowest-performing where children are at risk. climate change.

Influencing marginalized communities

Recognizing the vulnerability of children to climate change in Malaysia, Unicef Malaysia collaborated with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) to conduct the first such study on “The Impact of Climate Change on Children: A Malaysian Perspective” (ICCC) between March 2020 and May 2021.

The ICCC report was launched last week at UKM by Deputy Secretary-General of the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community (Strategic) Dr. Hishamuddin Mohd Hashim on behalf of Deputy Minister Datuk Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff.

According to Unicef ​​Malaysia Innovation & Sustainability Program expert Ismail Nnafie, climate change affects Malaysian children in several ways, including through vector diseases, waterborne and respiratory infections linked to climate change, environmental pollution, and pollution, affecting access to education. , and severe weather injuries and deaths such as flooding.

“Unicef ​​will continue to work with the government, academics, and the community to address the issues of environmental pollution and climate change as well as create a stable and safe environment for children and young people in Malaysia,” he said. found on the publication of the ICCC report.

The lead researcher of the ICCC report, Dr. Mazrura Sahani, that one of the most interesting findings in their study is that children in marginalized communities are more vulnerable to climatic and environmental hazards.

He said that marginalized children include children from indigenous communities, the undocumented, and the urban poor. They also include children who have been abandoned, unregistered at birth, or disabled.

Mazrura said their findings come from three case studies conducted, with different geographical and community locations.

“We selected and examined registered and undocumented minority groups on the island of Pulau Gaya, Sabah; Temiar natives living in the mountains at Pos Kuala Mu, Sungai Siput, Perak; and the B40 family living in PPR Sungai Bonus (Rakyat). Housing Program) apartments in Setapak in Kuala Lumpur town, ”he said.

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In fact, he said, these children are considered more vulnerable to climate change due to poverty, social and economic conditions, difficult location, poor access to essential services such as water and sanitation. , and also illiterate.

Management gap

Mazara, who is also a public health professor in environmental and occupational epidemiology at UKM, said the ICCC report also said that not all aspects of children’s rights in Malaysia’s regulatory framework had been adequately considered, climate and environment, making it the right time for all stakeholders to take priority action.

“The main problem is that most of the policies and laws studied in the study existed before climate change became a global issue.’‘ For example, climate change is not specifically mentioned in the Renewable Energy Act 2011. Therefore, its content is in line with Malaysia’s international commitments.

The law is sensitive to children

The ICCC report recommends a more child-friendly regulatory framework, ensuring that the roles and weaknesses of children are given special consideration in mitigation and climate change plans in relevant laws, policies, and plans.

“Children’s right to a healthy environment should be consistently and comprehensively defined in the Constitution and integrated into national laws and policies,” Mazrura said.

He said other recommendations made in the ICCC report included measures to strengthen the education sector so that it is climate-wise to withstand the effects of climate change.

“For example, we can develop initiatives such as climate schools and resilient infrastructure to ensure school closures and learning problems are addressed in the event of a natural disaster,” he said.

Meanwhile, ICCC co-researchers reported prof. dr. Ramzan Dambul from UMS said the Covid-19 pandemic also revealed a complex link between the environment, health, and the economy, based on several studies.

“The impact of the climate change crisis during the COVID-19 outbreak must be seen as the right time for the country to restore sustainability by placing children and climate change as the top agenda.

“It needs to start with the National Rehabilitation Plan (NRP) because now is the right time to rethink the world where children are safer today and tomorrow,” he said.