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UNICEF brief: Beat the heat - protecting children from heatwaves in Europe and Central Asia


Around half of the 184 million children in Europe and Central Asia are exposed to high heatwave frequency*, according to UNICEF's analysis of 2020 data from 50 countries. This is double the global average of 1 in 4 children exposed to high heatwave frequency.

Infants and young children suffer most during heatwaves as their core temperatures rise significantly higher and faster than adults. Heatwaves not only affect children’s health but also their ability to concentrate and learn, putting their education at risk. As adults experience heat differently, parents and caretakers may miss symptoms of heat-related illness in children, putting children’s health at further risk. 

The frequency of heatwaves is expected to increase further rise in Europe, and so is the exposure of children. Even a conservative scenario of 1.7 °C average global warming (SSP1) will expose all European children to high heatwave frequency by 2050. The multitude of negative implications on the current and future health of so many of the region’s children must urge governments to:

  1. Incorporate heatwave mitigation and adaptation into policy
  2. Invest in primary health care
  3. Invest in national climate early warning systems
  4. Adapt services to cope with the impacts of heatwaves
  5. Ensure adequate financing
  6. Equip children with education and training

The briefing can be consulted on UNICEF'S website.

*High heatwave frequency: Where there are on average 4.5 or more heatwaves per year.

Reference information

Published in Climate-ADAPT Aug 01 2023   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Aug 01 2023

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