Extreme climate events – including floods, droughts, storms or
heatwaves – will have negative consequences for children, even if
they just occur once. However, experiencing more than one shock
is more difficult to recover from, especially if events occur in quick
succession. Climate change will increase the frequency of extreme
climate events. Globally, natural disasters are occurring almost five
times as frequently as 40 years ago.1
Families hit by one crisis may be able to absorb the shock
provided the crisis is not too severe. However, when families
are hit by two, three or four shocks consecutively, their coping
mechanisms can become exhausted after one or two shocks.
Cumulative shocks make it difficult not only to recover, but also to
survive, as documented in recent studies. In Malawi, in response
to continuous erratic weather, poor households grappling with
multiple stressors such as poverty, HIV/AIDS or the loss of a family
member, frequently resorted to unsustainable coping mechanisms.
They often liquidated productive assets or slaughtered or sold
livestock to overcome the immediate food insecurity, thereby
jeopardizing their food security in the long-term.2
In fact, many unsustainable coping mechanisms compromise
children’s long-term prospects. In 2008/2009, examples of Nigerian
families coping with the triple F crisis (food, finance and fuel) paint
a particularly grim picture of what life with recurring disasters
means for the poorest children. Families’ coping strategies led to
devastating short and long-term consequences for children: school
withdrawal, a significant rise in malnutrition rates, and a heightened
risk of being subjected to exploitative forms of labour, trafficking
and transactional sex among children.3
If shocks are going to become more frequent in the future, it is
imperative to build resilience and improve equitable outcomes for
children today. The resilience of children and families is influenced
by their access to adequate nutrition, health, education, water and
sanitation, and all forms of protection required now – before crises
hit.

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