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Poorest children worst-hit by global warming

Children from the poorest families can be as much as times more likely to suffer from environmental disasters linked to climate change, according to new research.

In Ethiopia 67 per cent of the poorest children were hit by an environmental shock, compared with seven per cent of children from better off families, according to a study by Save The Children.

The world’s poorest families mostly live in cut-off areas, where droughts and flooding wipe out crops and destroy their homes.

The charity’s findings come as environment ministers yesterday (Sunday) gathered for the final stages of World climate talks in Cancun amid fears of a repeat of the failures that nearly wrecked the December 2009 Copenhagen summit.

After more talks among senior officials, in the Mexican resort city, the ministers will on Tuesday get down to a four-day discussion, due to climax on Friday. The aim is to prepare the ground for limits on man-made greenhouse gases and give the go-ahead to a fund to help channel hundreds of billions in aid towards poor, vulnerable countries.

It is a make or break opportunity to help millions of children whose lives will be made even worse because of climate change, said Save the Children’s Lydia Baker. "Most of the biggest environmental disasters this year have hit the poorest nations in the world, and children from the poorest and most disadvantaged groups in those countries have been hit the hardest,” she said. “These disasters put children’s heath at extreme risk."

In the world’s poorest countries, cyclones and floods destroy family homes, leaving children sleeping out in the open and more at risk to killer diseases such as malaria and pneumonia. When droughts and pest destroy crops, there’s often no way the poorest parents can afford even basic food for their children. And, with changing weather patterns forecast, these disasters are all expected to get worse in years to come. By 2030 climate change could be claiming nearly a million lives a year and inflicting costs of 157 billion dollars annually, a study issued at the conference said Thursday. Poor countries would suffer most in terms of lives lost, while the United States would face the biggest economic bill.

World leaders need to make a firm agreement on adaptation funding at Cancun,” Ms Baker added. “They must focus on prioritising the poorest that are least responsible for climate change and the most marginalised people. Failure to do so is unacceptable."

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