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Climate change adversely affects children: Coastal salinity behind child marriage

Pinky Akter, Guest Writer  |
Update: 2022-08-27 13:41:04
Climate change adversely affects children: Coastal salinity behind child marriage

UNICEF study has revealed how climate change is adversely affecting children's lives. Children and teenagers are paying the price in various ways including child marriage, child labor, and malnutrition.

Coastal salinity is a new cause of child marriage.

Rubina Akhtar living in Shyam Nagar is not yet 14 years old. This girl from the coastal region is a victim of child marriage and she is now a mother of two children. Why did Rubina’s family arrange her marriage at such a young age? Rubina’s mother said that for a long time her daughter used to have various problems including pain in the lower abdomen due to menstruation. She has consulted the doctor several times about this problem. The doctor said that Rubina’s problem is mainly due to saline water. And so Rubina’s family decided to get her married early so that reproductive health would not cause a problem.

Rubina’s mother says that this problem will be solved if she gets married and has children, so she gave her daughter in marriage. Like Rubina, many other girls below 18 years of age are being subjected to child marriage due to salt water in this village.

According to the information from the Shyamnagar Upazila Secondary Education Officer’s office, a total of 1,214 girl students were found married in 89 educational institutions in Upazila. Among them, 703 are from secondary and lower secondary level educational institutions, 511 are from various madrasas and 333 are from various colleges. But locals say the actual number is higher.

Analyzing the data of Upazila Health Complex of Shyamnagar, it can be seen that along with women, teenagers are also resorting to various problems with their uterus.

Bangladesh ranks 15th out of 163 countries on the child climate risk list in the UNICEF study. One in three children, or about 20 million children, are exposed to extreme weather, flooding, river erosion, sea level rise, and other environmental shocks driven by climate change.

According to a preliminary report of the National Hygiene Baseline Survey published in 2014, more than 80 percent of women and girls in Bangladesh use reused cloth during their periods.

Farah Kabir, Country Director of Action Aid, said that the local administration should do an awareness campaign in this regard. 
Children suffering from malnutrition! Experts say climate change is one of the reasons.

Climate change and environmental pollution are affecting the agricultural sector as well, creating a food crisis. And the children are paying for it.

After visiting the coast and talking with the locals, it is known that due to the climate, there is a shortage of fish, the production of food crops has decreased and trees are dying in forestry.

In this situation, poverty is increasing, food shortage is appearing. Children's food list does not have a sufficient amount of vitamins, iodine, meat, and essential fats.

It is more important to keep the skeleton strong in children and adolescents. For this, the child should be fed an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D food. Scientists recommend 600 units of vitamin D daily for children over one year of age and 1300 mg of calcium daily for children aged 9-18 years.

According to a report by UNICEF, two-thirds of children aged 6 months to 2 years do not get enough to eat. They are deprived of physical growth and brain development. In addition to this, their immunity is decreasing, the level of infection in their bodies is increasing, and even in some cases, children are dying. The report also states that 28 percent of children are born underweight. After birth, 51 percent of children are fed cow's milk. 49 percent of children are not given breast milk on time. 55 percent of children under six months are exclusively breastfed. That is, 45 percent of children of this age are deprived of this nutritious food.

Sharif Jamil, general secretary of the Bangladesh Environment Movement (BPA), said that the rate of child malnutrition in the country has not decreased significantly. Children are still suffering from malnutrition, especially in marginal areas, he believes that climate change is a major cause. Sharif Jamil said unplanned industrialization along the coast is adversely affecting the agricultural sector of the country and salinity is also responsible for the shrimp cages. And due to these reasons, people's livelihood is being disrupted due to the influence of cropland, a food crisis is occurring, and children's families are not able to provide food security.

According to nutritionists, a malnourished teenage girl has a late onset of menstruation. Again not regular. Also, white discharge may come out. And the main cause of this disease is malnutrition.

Mizanur Rahman, the coordinator of Coast Trust, a non-governmental (NGO) organization working with the coast, said Due to the intrusion of saline water in these areas, agricultural production is decreasing and animal husbandry is threatened due to a lack of fodder. To protect from this situation, it is necessary to implement special projects nationally and internationally.

Meanwhile, child labor and child trafficking are increasing under the influence of climate. 

Children are moving to the city due to floods, cyclones, floods, and river erosion. Child illiteracy and begging are increasing. These children are involved in risky work. Some people come to the city and get involved in various crimes including drugs.

Emdadul is playing Latim on the green field. Sometimes jumping in the river and swimming with friends. No, it's not but in reality! When 10-year-old Emdad's little body gets tired from working all day in a tire shop, he plunges into such memories.    

Imdad's family used to live on the banks of the Meghna. Then his family moved to the city. Currently, Imdad's family lives in Karail Basti. Little Imran had to catch up with the situation of the family at the age of studying for a living.

Many families like Imdad lost everything in the river and migrated to the city. Most of them came to slums in the city. Some children are separated from their families and end up begging or living a nomadic life. Where there is no guarantee of basic needs.    

Human rights activist Wahida Banu said that public and private NGOs should work collaboratively to protect children. Budget allocation should be child friendly along with transparency and accountability only then it is possible to prevent child labor by 2025

According to UNICEF research, about 17 lakh children are engaged in prohibited and hazardous labor in the country. One in four of them is 11 years old or younger. Many girls work as domestic workers. It is difficult to add them to accurate data and story research. Doing so will increase the number.

Experts believe that the physical and mental development of these children is hindered due to joining work at a young age. Their future prospects are being blocked. The lives of these children are falling into a vicious cycle of poverty. This is what the director of ILO's Bangladesh office, Tumo Pottinen, says. On the other hand, a UNICEF representative in Bangladesh Sheldon Yate said that children are paying the price of climate change.

Child laborers in Bangladesh are involved in about 347 types of economic activities. Bangladesh’s government has already identified 42 types of work as hazardous and 13 types of work as extremely hazardous. Bangladesh Labor Foundation (BLF) informs that 47 percent of the workers working in 9,500 small and large factories in Keraniganj of Dhaka are below 17 years of age. The number of children in the age group of 5 to 14 years is about 20 thousand and the number of children in the age group of 5-17 years is about 120 thousand.

Syeda Rizwana, Chief Executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) says, "Climate fund money is not being spent with transparency". Many ministries and many projects are taking funds by showing the climate This money is not being spent properly where it is supposed to go. she said that by increasing the government's monitoring in this regard, the climate change trust fund should be used properly to protect the future generation.

Writer: Pinky Akter, Freelancer contributor

BDST: 1340 HRS, AUG 27, 2022

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