3 November 2021 - Thailand


An 11-year-old Rohingya refugee and a group of teenage rappers from Pakistan are among 17 prize winners in an Asia-wide youth climate art competition whose work was displayed at the COP26 climate summit this week.  

Mohammad Hossain, a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar, earned a coveted top prize for his climate-inspired painting, which depicts the heavy floods that destroyed his home earlier this year in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, the world’s largest refugee settlement. He painted the camps under water with refugee families carrying essential supplies on their heads and trying to reach a bridge to safe land.  

The competition, organised by Save the Children, asked children to express their climate crisis concerns and solutions through art. Finalists in the regional competition were shortlisted from national competitions in eight Asian countries and two refugee communities.  

 “We recently had floods in our refugee camp and I think it happened due to climate change. My art shows how we suffered in the flood,” said Mohammad Hossain.  “I am really feeling great that my art will be at COP26. I win a lot of drawing competitions, but this one is different for me, as I wanted people all around the world to keep thinking about Rohingya children.

The winning entries – chosen by a panel of teenage climate activists – include paintings, photography, poems and rap songs from Bangladesh, China, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. They are currently exhibited alongside the other finalists in a virtual gallery, and were on display at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday this week.  

A recent report by Save the Children and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel found that, on current trajectories, children across the world will face far more climate impacts such as heatwaves, droughts, floods, cyclones and crop failures than their grandparents.

Winner Yujeong Nam, 10, from South Korea, was awarded a top prize for her painting “Clean sea” and was overjoyed that her work would be on show at COP26. Her painting depicted a fisherman pulling rubbish from the sea with the aid of a female diver putting trash under the sea into a net.

Thus dolphins, seagulls, & other sea creatures are happy with the clean ocean,” said Yujeong Nam. ”I hope that in the future we will have a planet with no trash, and that we can breathe clean air everywhere.” 

Describing her painting, titled “Living together”, 15-year-old winner Mayuko Miyahara from Japan, said: “I hope that Japan and other countries will take the initiative in addressing environmental issues, and recognize that energy, though essential for our daily lives, is a burden on the environment.”

Mayuko Miyahara drew a blue whale and other endangered animals in a power plant to depict how humans and other living things should coexist and prosper.

Among the other winners are 15-year-old Muhammad Afkeen, a refugee from Afghanistan, Smriti Oli, 10, from Nepal, whose poem  “Nature” calls for better protection of the earth’s natural resources, and a group of rappers from Pakistan whose song, “The effects of climate change”, won top prize in the song category.  

Aysha Afrin Diya, a 15-year-old climate activist from Bangladesh, was one of the judges who picked the winning artworks.

 “It was difficult to choose the winners. Some of the paintings were so beautiful, and the rap songs were so good. The artists really showed the importance of nature and effects of climate change, and they encourage us to do something for the world and its creatures. I think anyone who sees this art will be more alert about climate change,” she said. 

Children across Asia are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis. A recent study by Save the Children found that children born in the region in the past year will face eight times more scorching heatwaves during their lives than their grandparents, as well as more floods, droughts and crop failures.   

Shaheen Chughtai, Advocacy and Campaigns Director for Save the Children in Asia, said: 

“These extraordinary artworks send a powerful message from children to the world. They are the ones who will be most affected by the climate crisis, and they are ready to fight for their futures – but they need their leaders to do the same.  

“We need to see decisive action from leaders to tackle climate change. That means scrapping our dependency on fossil fuels and setting up financial safety nets to support the hardest hit families. We can turn this around – but we need to listen to children and jump into action. Exceeding a global temperature rise of 1.5C smothers the hope of a bright future for children who haven’t even been born yet.”  

The landmark COP26 climate conference brings together governments to accelerate action to prevent a looming global climate catastrophe.  

To protect the lives and futures of 2.2 billion children, Save the Children is calling on wealthier countries deliver on their promise of at least $100 billion a year to help poorer nations switch to greener economies and help vulnerable communities prepare for increasing floods, cyclones, heatwaves, and other climate crisis threats.  

Save the Children is also calling on leaders to commit to limiting rising temperatures to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.


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