Climate Disasters Force Children in Bangladesh from School to Work

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Extreme weather in low-lying Bangladesh is leading to “worsening flooding, erosion and storms” that are forcing “thousands of families” from their rural homes into urban slums, Mosabber Hossain reported in May 2022 for Context, a news platform produced by the Thomas Reuters Foundation. For many of these children, Hossain wrote, “The move means the end of education, and the start of a lifetime of hard work.” UNICEF reported that 1.7 million Bangladeshi children are now in work, a figure that likely underestimates the total, because girls are “hidden in domestic work,” UNICEF noted.

“For the first time, we have clear evidence of the impact of climate change on millions of children in South Asia,” said George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF’s regional director for South Asia.

In Dhaka, Hossain reported, children end up working in tanneries and shipyards, or tailoring clothing or repairing automobiles.

Thirty-seven million children in Bangladesh have been impacted by school closures since the start of the pandemic in 2020, according to an October report by UNICEF and UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In 2021, the drop-out rate was more than 17 percent, according to the nation’s annual primary school census. Alamgir Mohammad Mansurul Alam, director general of the office the oversees primary education in the country, called that figure “alarming” and noted that “one of the big reasons is climate change.” More than 500 schools have closed due to flooding, he said in an interview.

When children are forced to work before completing their education, their future opportunities are limited, contributing to inter-generational cycles of poverty and child labor. “Children are paying a high price for climate change,” according to Sheldon Yett, UNICEF’s representative in Bangladesh.

UNICEF estimates that, globally, one billion children live in “extremely high-risk countries” due to the climate crisis. But corporate news outlets have not reported how climate disasters, such as flooding in Bangladesh, have forced numerous children from school into work, even as they publish more upbeat stories about the leadership roles played by young people at international climate forums—as NBC News reported during COP27, the United Nations climate change conference, held in Egypt in November 2022. Forbes published an article highlighting the fact that 27 million children were affected by floods in 2022, “yet another example of how the climate crisis is endangering the world’s children.” But the byline for this article noted that Forbes published it as part of its pay-to-publish BrandVoice program, in partnership with the article’s contributor, UNICEF USA.

Source: Mosabber Hossain, “Climate Disasters Drive Bangladesh Children From Classrooms to Work”, Context (Thomas Reuters Foundation), May 8, 2022.

Student Researcher: Shea Edelman (SUNY Cortland)

Faculty Evaluator: Christina Knopf (SUNY Cortland)