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Immediate Action Is Required to Protect Asian Children from Deadly Heatwaves: UN Report

BANGKOK, Thailand – Millions of children are at risk of heat-related illnesses and maybe death as a result of the major heatwaves that are sweeping through East Asia and the Pacific, according to a grim warning from the UN. Global monitors are raising the alarm about climate extremes and rising greenhouse gas emissions as 2024 looks to be one of the hottest years on record.

According to UNICEF’s most recent data, over 243 million children in the Pacific and East Asia regions are thought to be at risk from these intense heatwaves, which presents a dire picture. Their health and wellbeing are being threatened by these extremely high temperatures.

The region’s nations are enduring oppressive summer temperatures, with many places seeing highs of over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). In the upcoming weeks, local meteorologists predict more temperature increases.

The situation is especially bad in the Philippines, where the intense heat has forced some schools to cancel in-person classes. In some areas of the nation, temperatures might reach dangerously highs of 42 or 43 degrees Celsius, according to forecasters.

In the meantime, Thailand’s northern province of Mae Hong Son recently registered a searing 43.5 degrees Celsius, edging ever closer to the record 44.6 degrees Celsius. Sadly, the Thai Ministry of Health reports that every year, about 40 people pass away from heat-related ailments.

In February, neighboring Vietnam had an unusual heatwave in the “rice bowl,” the country’s southern area, with abnormally high temperatures—38 degrees Celsius—for the time of year.

Because they are less able than adults to control their body temperature, children are especially susceptible to these harsh weather conditions. According to Debora Comini, Director of UNICEF’s Regional Office for East Asia and the Pacific, “Children are more vulnerable than adults to the effects of climate change, and excess heat is a potentially lethal threat to them.” Comini stressed the urgency of taking immediate action.

The region’s dangerous combination of heatwaves and high humidity is highlighted in the UNICEF report. These conditions can interfere with the body’s normal cooling processes and have catastrophic effects. In order to protect children and vulnerable populations from increasing heatwaves and other climate-related shocks, Comini called for more attention this summer.

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