In Bangladesh, climate disasters are forcing children like 12-year-old dockworker Alamin, 10-year-old vegetable market employee Alauddin, and 9-year-old cargo unloader Rupa to seek work as their families flee extreme weather that flooded educational institutions they once attended. Bangladesh is low-lying and erosion and climate-worsened flooding and storms are destroying rural homes of the marginalized who are often forced to build on unsafe land that’s then washed away in floods.

Families abandoning uninhabitable homes and moving to slums near the capital, Dhaka, are a key driver of a surge in school dropouts. Additionally, some 500 schools were destroyed or damaged by floods in the last year, Deputy State Minister of Education Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, with very few having been repaired enough for children to return to classes – if they even still could.

“The students could not go school for a long time,” Chowdury said, and “a large number of them never come back to school and are involved in different work to support their family.”

More than 2 million Bangladeshi children dropped out of school in 2021, a rate of 17%. According to a UNICEF report released last August, 1.7 million children in Bangladesh work as laborers, about a quarter of whom are 11 years old or younger. These children work in vegetable markets, at tanneries, factories, or shipyards, or carry luggage in transit terminals or fix automobiles. However, those figures, Reuters reports, don’t even include girls, who are forced into domestic or sex work, and rarely even show up in the statistics, per UNICEF.

Sheldon Yatt, UNICEF’s representative, told Reuters that “children are paying a high price for climate change.” (Thomson Reuters Foundation)