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28 September 2021 - News


Nairobi, 28 September – Kenyan children born over the past year[1] will on average face 4.6 times more droughts during their lives than their grandparents, according to new research released today by Save the Children.

Save the Children said this is set to most adversely affect children living in disadvantaged communities who are already at a far greater risk of battling waterborne diseases, hunger and even facing death due to drought or floods.

Some children might even be hit by several disasters simultaneously or in quick succession – such as drought, floods and fires - exacerbating the effects even further.

In comparison, newborns across the globe will on average live through 2.6 times more droughts as people born 60 years ago.

The data is part of the organisation’s new report Born Into The Climate Crisis – why we must act now to secure children’s rights, which outlines the devastating impact of the climate crisis on children across the world if urgent action is not taken.

Under the original Paris Agreement emission reduction pledges, global temperatures will rise by an estimated 2.6 to 3.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels — which would have an unacceptable impact on children, Save the Children said.

Recurring drought is ruining the source of livelihood of several pastoralist families in northern Kenya who rely on livestock and livestock products.

Nadhifya (37) from Wajir County, for instance, has lost most of her livestock as a result of the ongoing drought in the region, which has decimated pasturelands. As such she is struggling to feed her children. But even worse for this family of eight, Nadhifya’s two-year-old daughter Ruqiya was recently diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition at a Save the Children supported centre. At the time of diagnosis, Ruqiya weighed just 6.3kg (14lbs), or the weight of a 5-month-old baby. Nadhifya said:  

If the drought worsens and our livestock perish, then our livelihood is completely affected and we are afraid for our children’s lives. We can barely afford to have two meals a day…


In Turkana County, Akeru (33), who is pregnant with her fourth child spoke of having to skip meals and even going for two days without eating food. She said:

During this time when we don’t have enough milk or meat, my family eats one meal a day which is dinner. Like yesterday, we cooked white maize only and that is what Loopongo (2 years and 8 months old son) ate, there was a day we skipped meals for two days and my child survived on plumpysup (nutrient-dense peanut paste provided by Save the Children)


For Born into the Climate Crisis, Save the Children worked with an international team of climate researchers led by the Vrije Universiteit Brussels, which calculated the impact of a range of extreme climate-related events on children born in 2020 compared to people born in 1960.

The findings painted a harrowing picture of devastating wildfires, river floods, droughts, crop failures and suffocating heatwaves for this and future generations.

Long-lasting, prolonged and repeated droughts, failed rainy seasons and desert locust swarms have contributed to food insecurity and disease outbreaks across Kenya. In mid-August the Kenyan government issued a drought alert across 12 counties, with an estimated two million people facing food shortages; the remote counties of Turkana, Garissa, Wajir and Marsabit were said to be the worst affected. At least 652,960 children across Kenya are acutely malnourished and are dependent on food from aid agencies and health services to survive.

Our report shows the terrifying reality for this generation of Kenyan children and future ones if we don’t act now,said Yvonne Arunga, Country Director of Save the Children in Kenya. “Children in poorer counties will be the worst affected, but every child will feel the ravaging impact of this climate emergency.

In recent times the population in arid and semi-arid parts of Kenya has been struggling to cope with the impacts of climate change, which has triggered harsher and more frequent droughts. Sadly, in food crises like this one, children are always the most vulnerable – without enough to eat and the right nutritional balance, children can’t develop as they should and are at high risk of acute malnutrition. Malnutrition can cause stunting, impede mental and physical development, increase the risk of developing other illnesses, and ultimately cause death. It remains one of the biggest killers of children under five around the world.

Save the Children is alarmed by the drought situation in northern Kenya, and is urgently calling on the international community to make more funds available for the drought response, so desperate communities can receive the assistance they need before things deteriorate further.

Save the Children is also appealing to the National and County Governments of Kenya to activate disaster management frameworks, and to work closely with development and humanitarian partners in a locally led response that reinforces existing community efforts. The National and County Governments should also quickly release funds to help mitigate the crisis and support families in need.

The impacts of climate change on crop production and the availability of nutritious food, threaten to undo decades of progress in the fight against hunger and stunting. This is bound to widen inequalities in and between countries, pushing millions more into a life of poverty.

Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children, said: The climate crisis is a child rights crisis at its core. We need to scrap our dependency on fossil fuels, set up financial safety nets and support the hardest hit people. We can turn this around – but we need to listen to children and jump into action. Not meeting the target of a max of 1.5-degree temperature rise smothers the hopes of a bright future for children who haven’t even been born yet.

Save the Children said that action on climate change is not only a moral obligation, but also a legal one for governments to act in the best interests of children.

To limit the impact of climate change on the lives of millions of children, Save the Children is calling for an increase of climate financing so vulnerable communities can prepare for crises, with specific criteria to ensure child-centred investments, and to support poorer countries manage unavoidable impacts. Governments must also ensure financial safety nets are available for the most vulnerable families, to help them face the impacts of climate change.

Cover Photo: Baby Suleiman being fed on milk from a container by his grandmother amidst a ravaging drought in Wajir. Photo: Delfhin Mugo, Save the Children


Notes to editors:
Climate researchers led by the Vrije Universiteit Brussels used five sources of data: newly-generated simulations of climate impacts across six extreme event categories; the United Nations World Population Prospects; global mean temperature scenarios compiled in support of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celcius; population reconstructions and projections; and country-scale cohort size data provided by the Wittgenstein Centre’s Human Capital Data Explorer.

The research calculates the exposure of an average person to climate impacts across their lifetime in 178 countries, 11 regions and the globe, then compares different age groups to calculate conservative estimates of lifetime extreme event occurrence as a consequence of climate change, while controlling for changes in life expectancy. The methods and results are documented in detail in a scientific publication forthcoming in October in the renowned journal Science.

[1] Research compared children born in 2020 to children born in 1960

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Delfhin Mugo| Humanitarian Communications Officer