Extreme weather uprooted 43 million children within six years, with India second worst affected

Extreme weather uprooted 43 million children within six years, with India second worst affected
To a large sect of us reading this article, an incoming rain spell might mean cancelling travel plans and readying hot chai-pakoda to tuck in and read next to sonorous rain. To millions of others, it flags off a lengthy process of packing up everything lying around the house and hoping it doesn’t pour hard enough to flood and destroy their makeshift dwellings yet again.

While extreme weather is certainly ruin indiscriminate, for a child unaware of the ways of the world and severely dependent on their caretakers, it can prove especially devastating. And yet, millions of children suffer from the onslaught of extreme weather every year, forcing them out of their homes. Battling the weather woes, often without a roof over their head and not enough food in their stomach, the little climate refugees travel hundreds of miles in pursuit of stable living conditions.

43 Million children displaced in six years

According to a recent UNICEF report, storms, floods, fires, and other terrible extreme weather events led to the displacement of 43 million children between 2016 and 2021. With climate change at the helm of an increasingly sinking ship, this number is set to skyrocket to 113 million over the next three decades.

According to the report, the Philippines had the most child displacements due to weather events during this six-year period, amounting to nearly 10 million children, followed by India with 6.7 million and China with 6.4 million. India, being the second most devastating country for children in this regard, thus accounted for 15% of all displacements.

Nearly half of these displacements were due to stormy events, leading to community-wide uprootings. A third of such displacement typically comprised helpless children. With deathly flooding becoming a common occurrence, it has ripped children away from Indian and Chinese homes more than 19 million times during the 2016-2020 time period, the data showed. All in all, the Philippines, India and China accounted for almost half the global child displacements.


India is currently struggling with devastating cloudburst-induced flooding in Sikkim, affecting nearly half a lakh residents in the region. Even in the absence of powerful cyclones this year, many states have to grapple with flash floods and landslides that destroy the makeshift shelters of already-disadvantaged families.

Cascading impacts

The extent of damage obviously does not end with damage to dwellings. Floodwaters often wash away essentials, including food, water, and even crucial uniforms and textbooks, severely impeding the education of younger ones in the family. With little to no buffer to fall back on, vulnerable children are often forced into exploitation, especially in countries with inadequate child protection laws.

Even on the drier end of the natural disaster spectrum, conditions are abysmal. Children from the drought-stricken Horn of Africa and the Caribbean have to endure compounding crises from climate extremes, internal national conflicts, fragile state of institutions, and poverty, leaving them terribly vulnerable and exposed to severe risks.

Such climatic events will undoubtedly continue to separate more and more children from their homes in countries like India, Vietnam and Bangladesh. Policymakers and the private sector need to do their part in assuaging these worries via future climate and energy planning, the report remarks. In addition, education and healthcare need to improve enough to better help families cope with the ever-increasing frequency and intensity of such climate calamities, concludes the report.

The findings of this report have been published by UNICEF and can be accessed here.