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Half of children in Europe and Central Asia exposed to high heatwave frequency, all will be by 2050

Around half of the 184 million children in Europe and Central Asia are exposed to high heatwave frequency, according to a new UNICEF policy brief. This is double the global average of 1 in 4 children exposed to high heatwave frequency. By 2050, all European children would be exposed to the risks of 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, according to Beat the heat: protecting children from heatwaves in Europe and Central Asia, UNICEF’s new briefing based on an analysis of 2020 data from 50 countries.

The frequency of heatwaves is expected to rise further 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 invest in climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. To help protect children, UNICEF advises to:

  1. Invest in primary health care
  2. Invest in national climate early warning systems
  3. Adapt services to cope with the impacts of heatwaves
  4. Ensure adequate financing
  5. 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.

Date: 02 Aug 2023