What happens to children in times of catastrophe is the focus of the 2018 WorldRiskReport, published by the Ruhr-University Bochum, and the Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft, an alliance of German development and relief organizations.
"Children are particularly badly affected by natural disasters, and they're more at risk than the adults because as a rule they're not as physically strong," Peter Mucke, the alliance's executive director, told DW. They're often not as well protected legally, either. "Children are less able to demand their rights, although these are protected by the Convention on the Rights of the Child," he said. "For children, the initial situation is especially difficult, especially after a disaster."
The vulnerability of children was apparent after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti: About 7,300 minors were abducted by traffickers and taken across the border to the Dominican Republic. In 2008, after Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, hundreds of children were forced into domestic servitude.
In April 2016, northwestern Ecuador was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. More than 660 people died, and 80,000 lost their homes and livelihoods. About 560 schools were partially or totally destroyed. Children were particularly affected. Many lost their parents and were left at first to fend completely for themselves. Emergency help did eventually arrive, but it was some time before the children were being looked after properly. Nonetheless, by April of the following year, the aid organization Plan International had provided emergency relief to 36,900 children.
One of the countries where children are currently heavily at risk is Yemen. Civil war has raged there for three and a half years. Civilians are particularly affected: Several million internally displaced people are on the move in this country at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Military violence is not the only cause of their suffering; there has also been a lengthy drought. In Iraq, too, the situation is difficult. "These countries absolutely do not have the capacity, in their state of war, to respond appropriately to an extreme natural disaster," Mucke said. "So, many children live in a completely ruined environment, or in a refugee camp, where conditions are such that it's much harder for them to get schooling, for example, or medical treatment."