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Climate change threatens children’s access to healthcare and education in South Africa, Section27 report reveals

Azra Hoosen | ah@radioislam.co.za
21 June 2024 | 09:00 CAT
2 min read

In a report titled “Climate Change as a Human Rights Risk: A Resource for Health and Education Rights Activists in South Africa,” SECTION27 emphasises the vulnerability of children to climate-induced disasters such as floods, droughts, and infectious diseases. It highlights the damage to school infrastructure and healthcare facilities, stressing the ripple effect on the national budget.

The report also details discussions from a conference on the climate crisis’s impact on socio-economic rights, stressing the need for climate change education, improved school infrastructure, and health impact assessments.

Candidate Attorney at Section27, Motheo Brodie explained to Radio Islam that what we are seeing when we speak about climate change, it’s not only a future event; we are already seeing an impact. “In this report we look at both the current and future impact,” he said.

Brodie pointed out that recent extreme weather events have caused significant damage to infrastructure and healthcare facilities.

“Our systems are not designed to respond adequately to extreme weather events. We also see more indirect impacts from an educational perspective. There is the impact of heat – Children learning in hotter conditions are performing worse than those learning in cooler conditions. We are likely to see these children suffering the most. From a health perspective, there is also psychological change children suffer due to climate change and uncertainty of what the future holds for children,” he said.

Key recommendations include constructing resilient school buildings, implementing remote learning systems, retrofitting healthcare facilities, and developing personalised early-warning systems.

“During heatwaves, schools need to adapt, for example, by ensuring there are cooling rooms for learners suffering from heat stroke or overheating. There are many recommendations made in the report that will be useful for people to read,” said Brodie.

Brodie highlighted the need to focus on human rights when discussing climate change and environmental degradation. “From an environmental law perspective, we must center this conversation around human rights and the impact of climate change on these rights,” he stated. He asserted it is crucial to address how current government policies fall short in protecting health and education amidst the climate crisis.

“All departments must create adaptation plans and policies, looking at vulnerabilities that the system has to climate change, and then create plans to counter that,” he added.

Brodie noted the lack of a coordinated response from the health and education sectors to climate change. “There is an opportunity for organisations to contribute to this process,” he stated.

This comprehensive report aims to inspire collaborative action from civil society and state institutions to protect children’s rights in a changing climate, framing climate change as a critical human rights issue.

The Section27 Report can be accessed here.

LISTEN to the full interview with Ml Habib Bobat and Section27 Attorney, Motheo Brodie, here.

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