The two cyclones that tore into Mozambique over the past two months affected 1 million children and damaged or destroyed 400 schools, UNICEF said on Friday.
More than 120,000 children were affected by Cyclone Kenneth, the strongest storm Mozambique has ever recorded, the U.N. children's agency said in a statement.
Cyclone Kenneth hit northern Mozambique on April 25 with the force of a Category 4 hurricane, killing dozens of people and wiping out villages while contaminating food and water supplies. Six weeks earlier, Cyclone Idai hammered Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi and killed more than 600 people.
“We are witnessing a worrisome trend,” said UNICEF's Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“Cyclones, droughts and other extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and intensity," she said. "As we have seen in Mozambique and elsewhere, poorer countries and communities are disproportionately affected. For children who are already vulnerable, the impact can be devastating.”
Médecins Sans Frontières, which already was on the ground helping to improve water and sanitation in Mozambique, assessed the needs of the country's hard-to-reach areas after the two cyclones went through.
“As a medical organization, we feel it is crucial to help the existing health services to resume their activities as soon as possible,” MSF project coordinator Danielle Borges said in a statement, adding that the organization was particularly concerned about the high risk of increased health problems due to water-borne diseases.
More trouble brewing in India
UNICEF described the impacts of the climate crisis as an "urgent wake-up call to world leaders on the grave risks that extreme weather events pose to the lives of children."
The U.N. children's agency emphasized that 28 million people in India, including 10 million children, were in the path of Cyclone Fani, which made landfall on Friday. It arrived with the force of a Category 4 hurricane — the strongest tropical cyclone to hit India in 20 years. About 1 million people were already evacuated.
“Children will bear the brunt of these disasters,” said Gautam Narasimhan, UNICEF's senior climate adviser. “This is not business as usual. Climate change is linked to rising sea levels and the increase in rainfall associated with cyclones, causing more devastation in coastal but also inland areas."
On a near-term basis, Narasimhan said, children were at risk of drowning and getting caught in landslides, incurring deadly diseases such as cholera and malaria or suffering malnutrition and psychological trauma.
Over the long term, he said, these devastating "cycles of poverty can linger for years and limit the capacity of families and communities to adapt to climate change and to reduce the risk of disasters.”