UN report: women hit hardest by climate change

10:40, November 19, 2009      

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Women, especially those living in developing countries, are burdened with the impact of climate change, which is often overshadowed by targets and pledges made by world leaders, said a new report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) launched here on Wednesday.

Aimed at highlighting the gap between the rich and poor and the inequities between women and men, the report, titled "The State of World Population 2009," links the relationship of population dynamics, reproductive health, and climate change in the face of unpredictable weather events.

"Women in poor countries are among the hardest hit by climate change -- mainly because, they're more likely than men to live in poverty and therefore more likely to lack the resources to cope with the effects of climate change," said Editor Richard Kollodge at the launch of the report at the UN Headquarters in New York.

The report said that since women play a larger role in the agricultural work force, where in the case of drought or heavy rainfall, women are then left to fend even harder to obtain water, food and energy for their homes.

Therefore, they become more vulnerable, it said.

Women, particularly those in poor countries, are affected differently than men. Women are among the most vulnerable to climate changes, partly because in many countries they make up the larger share of the agricultural work force and partly because they tend not to have access to as many income-earning opportunities as men, said Safifyre Cagar, director of UNFPA's International and External Relations Division.

"The report explores the critical connections among population dynamics, reproductive health, women's lives and climate change as they relate to greenhouse-gas emissions and societies' resilience against the impacts of climate change," Cagar said.

"The report describes what can be done to slow down -- and possibly roll back -- climate change and what must be done to help the poor adapt to the climate change that is already under way," Cagar said.

Often girls have to drop out of school to share this responsibility which contributes to the cycle of poverty and inequality -- and "undermines the social capital" adequately needed in addressing climate change, said the report.

To prevent the world's 3.4 billion women and girls from bearing the brunt of climate change, Kollodge underscored the need in "empowering women to cope with the changes in climate" in order to "become agents for positive change."

Access to reproductive healthcare, including family planning, will cause decreased rates of fertility, which then contributes in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions over a period of time, said the report.

"Climate change is about people -- people are affected by it, people must adapt to it and only people can stop it," Kollodge said.

Established operationally in 1969 at the initiative of the UN General Assembly, UNFPA is the largest internationally funded source of population assistance to developing countries and those with economies in transition.

The UN body assists countries, at their request, to improve reproductive health and family planning services on the basis of individual choice, and to formulate population policies in support of efforts toward sustainable development.

Source: Xinhua
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