KOTA KINABALU: Increased frequency and intensity of destructive typhoons affected the residents and children of Pulau Gaya, causing a rise in infectious diseases, disrupting access to schools, and limiting access to basic services and supplies.

These findings from ‘Impact of Climate Change on Children: A Malaysian Perspective’ (ICCC) launched in 2021 were shared today at an event at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) to promote the report and to announce a UNICEF and Environment Protection Department project “Air Quality Monitoring in Schools” (AQUAMS Project). 

“Climate change and environmental pollution is arguably the single greatest threat to the realisation of children’s rights which continuously undercut decades of global progress in improving children’s welfare,” said Dr Rashed Sarwar, UNICEF Representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei Darussalam. “UNICEF as the world’s biggest organisation advocating for children’s rights will continue to take the lead in safeguarding children’s rights to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. We are happy to partner with University Malaysia Sabah and the Environment Protection Department to draw attention to this child rights issue.”

The ICCC report calls for policymakers and key actors from both government and private sectors, as well as social innovators to take urgent climate action in Malaysia. There is a need to move towards child-sensitive climate governance framework as children are currently not recognised as rights holders and crucial stakeholders in environmental laws and policies. Furthermore, proper monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for intervention programmes related to climate and environment is needed to ensure evidence-based climate and environmental governance initiatives are aligned cross-sectors.

“The issues of climate change and environmental pollution are globally becoming more prevalent, and Malaysia is not spared. As surface mean temperatures continue to rise, the country is expected to experience increasingly volatile weather systems. However, children are consistently being overlooked in the design and content of climate policies. So far there is also insufficient attention given to enhance awareness and understanding of the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation on the lives of families and children,” said Assoc Prof Ts Dr Ramzah Dambul, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

Community-based action

UNICEF and the Environment Protection Department, Sabah also launched AQUAMS to monitor air quality in schools. The programme aims to establish a citizen science air quality monitoring programme in schools in Sabah.

“Together with UNICEF, we hope to implement a state-wide climate and air quality monitoring system to safeguard air quality from further deterioration. We hope to increase collaboration in technical support, data sharing and the development of a regional action plan on children’s environmental health. This programme is aimed to raise the awareness of air pollution issues as well as various environmental issues in Sabah including waste management, water pollution, amongst others,” said Vitalis J. Moduying, Director of the Environment Protection Department Sabah. 

The AQUAMS project will be implemented over a 12-month period which will involve capacity building, engagement with schools and communities, and the production of a guidance handbook. 

Additionally, Siung Films was announced as a participant of the MyUNICEF Impact Challenge. Their education platform Agents4Change was their answer to the call for innovative, creative and impactful solutions with game-changing models that will help address access to a safe and clean environment for all children in Malaysia.

‘We were so excited to learn that Siung Films and our educational platform Agents4Change had been accepted to be part of the programme and honoured to find out that we were the only social enterprise from Sabah to have been selected,” Chief Executive Officer, Producer and Director of Siung Films Jo Luping said.