The United Nations agencies have said pregnant women, babies, and children face extreme health risks from climate catastrophes that warrant urgent attention.

They called on world leaders to ensure newborns and children among others are protected from the impacts of climate change.

Climate change is a major intergenerational injustice of our times. Safeguarding the health and rights of women, children, and adolescents is non-negotiable in the face of the climate crisis’’, said Rt Hon Helen Clark, PMNCH Board Chair and former Prime Minister of New Zealand.

According to a Call for Action released Friday by UN agencies ahead of the global Conference of the Partie negotiations on climate change in Dubai, they said the effect of climate events on maternal and child health have been neglected.

“Protecting maternal, newborn and child health from the impacts of climate change – the effects of climate events on maternal and child health have been neglected, underreported and underestimated. It highlights that very few countries’ climate change response plans mention maternal or child health, describing this as “a glaring omission and emblematic of the inadequate attention to the needs of women, newborns, and children in the climate change discourse”,  the document said.

The Call to Action highlights seven urgent actions to address these mounting risks which include sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and action on climate finance, alongside the specific inclusion of the needs of pregnant women, babies and children within climate and disaster-related policies.

“To find climate solutions that acknowledge the distinct health needs and vulnerabilities of women and girls we must start by asking the right questions,” said Diene Keita, the Deputy Executive Director for Programmes at UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. “Global climate solutions must support – not sacrifice – gender equality.”

Assistant Director General for Universal Health Coverage, Life Course at the World Health Organization Bruce Aylward was quoted as saying that children and pregnant women face the dire consequences of climate change.

“Climate change poses an existential threat to all of us, but pregnant women, babies and children face some of the gravest consequences of all.

“Children’s futures need to be consciously protected, which means taking climate action now for the sake of their health and survival, while ensuring their unique needs are recognized in the climate response, ” he was quoted as saying.