Clean air and clean water

Monday 18 August 2014

 Aisha, 15, showing her message for world leaders and what she wants them to do to help make a difference to her environment and the world around her. Her messages are:

1. I want peace to reign in my country, and for you to find a solution to the Syria crisis.

2. I want all of you to preserve mutual understanding and harmony, so that you can

make important decisions for the Arab world.

3. It is our right to live in a safe environment, where children can live safely and be protected from danger.

4. As children, we have the right to play in safe playgrounds.

5. A sound mind in a healthy body. We ask you to please preserve water supplies.

Photo: Rakan Diab, Save the Children

Being a child or a refugee doesn’t, and shouldn’t, mean you can’t have a say in shaping the world around you. 

Children in the Middle East and North Africa are among those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and natural disasters. Besides experiencing conflict, children in the region live in areas highly susceptible to severe water shortages, food insecurity, deforestation and changing weather patterns. Their opinions on how the world might address these grave problems count. It was this view that prompted Save the Children, together with World Vision and the regional offices of IFRC, WHO and UNICEF, to initiate a regional advocacy campaign highlighting children’s voices on some of the world’s most pressing issues, including climate change and disaster risk reduction (DRR).

Children aged 10-18 in Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Morocco and Palestine were encouraged to contribute their views on DRR, climate change and development. 

In Lebanon, Save the Children consulted 150 children in 25 focus groups across the country to gauge how they had been affected by climate change or other disasters, how they felt their governments were responding, and what role children and adolescents in their societies could play in reducing such risks. They were also asked what messages they wanted to send their governments on improving the lives of children. The participants learnt more about the causes of climate change and ways to minimize its impact, such as water conservation and reforestation. The children then devised posters, video messages and their own campaigns to deliver to the world’s leaders.

Aisha, a Syrian refugee, was one of the children who participated through Save the Children’s Child Friendly Spaces. She saw the effects of climate change and government policy most clearly through water and deforestation.

“When I think of the changes that have been happening in my environment, I think back to being able to drink water from the tap in Syria. Here, you can’t do that and we have to buy water. Sometimes, we can’t afford to and drink from the tap anyway, even though we know the water isn’t safe to drink. I think the authorities should treat the water here to make it safe to drink so that people aren’t forced to buy it.”

Aisha expressed concern about the current drought affecting Lebanon. “It’s a big problem and we already have to buy water, so I am worried about what will happen in the coming months. Life is difficult enough here, so I am really worried about the impact this will have on all of us,” she said.

“When I think to the future and the sort of environment I want to live in, I want to be surrounded by green spaces. I want to be able to breathe in clean air and have clean water. I want all children to be in school and most importantly of all, I want there to be peace,” she added.

The messages of Aisha and the other child participants from across the region will be drafted into a Children’s Communiqué and taken to the next Regional Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation in Egypt this September. There, Save the Children will present the Communiqué and advocate for greater commitments from leaders towards ensuring resilience of children and communities to climate change in post-2015 agendas, when the Millennium Development Goals and Hyogo Framework targets expire.